DARTMOUTH — A well-known leader on the SouthCoast sports scene is speaking out about a hate crime vandalism incident that took place just over a week ago in Dartmouth.

Steve Burgo of Burgo Basketball Association said he's still "cooling off" about the April 15 vandalism, in which he said the N-word was spray painted on a dumpster at the 101 Slocum Rd. facility.

"I'm very upset about all this nonsense," Burgo said of the incident.

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Hate crimes are on the rise nationwide, and Massachusetts is no exception.

FBI data shows that hate crime incidents increased more than 31% in Massachusetts from 2020 to 2021.

Hate Crime Incident in Dartmouth

Burgo, who founded the community basketball association nearly thirty years ago, said that his surveillance cameras were off the night of the Dartmouth incident.

Steve Burgo
Courtesy Steve Burgo via Facebook

"I had taken my mother to the hospital on that night for an emergency," he explained.

"Normally I turn the cameras on every night, and I just happened to forget, because of everything I was going through."

The next morning, Burgo said, when he drove up, he immediately saw the spray paint on the container facing the road.

"There was the N-word in bright white lettering," he said. "That kind of hurt. Not kind of, it hurt a lot."

"Let me put it this way — when I drove up, the hair on my neck stood up," Burgo added. "And I don't have much hair there!"

Dartmouth police called the language spray painted at Burgo Basketball "a disgusting racial term" and asked members of the public to provide any information or video surveillance that might help nab the suspect.

Burgo said it's the first time the association has had that kind of issue, attributing it to "ignorance" and saying he'd like to meet the person who did it.

"Whoever this young man or young lady is that did this, I’d love them to come talk to me," he said. "Because they’ve got an issue...there’s no such thing as anybody being better than anybody else."

Vandalism and Aftermath

The basketball facility wasn't the only sports ground targeted on Slocum Road that week.

Dartmouth Police said DYAA's Crapo Field, down the road from Burgo Basketball, also had a vandalism incident involving crude references to male genitalia painted on the dugouts.

Burgo said he feels "the innocence of this place" has been lost.

"Some of [Burgo Basketball's] third and fourth grade kids had to see that when they drove up in the car. Now, does that make me feel happy? Heck no," he said.

The Burgo Basketball Association entrance on Slocum Road
Google Maps

Luckily, he said, association board member Ray Medeiros lives nearby, and was able to remove the graffiti.

But despite help from the community, Burgo noted, such incidents should not happen.

"I’m still mad," he added. "I don’t want any child to come up here and have to see that."

Community Support and Moving on

"This isn’t going to deter us whatsoever," Burgo said. "These kids mean too much to me."

He noted that the support from community members has been "phenomenal."

"People I haven’t talked to in years, people I went to school with at Dartmouth High School, a lot of the parents...They’re all reaching out," he said.

"There are great people in this town," Burgo added. "There are some idiots, but there are more great people."

"This is I hope a one-time incident, and let me tell you right now, my love for these children and this whole area hasn’t dissipated whatsoever."

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