Published: June 23, 2006
Someone set fire to seven American flags in a Brooklyn neighborhood yesterday, stoking outrage in a place where flags are displayed outside homes all year long.

Six of the flags hung at houses in Marine Park, and one was on a car. An investigator speculated that the vandals might be teenagers out of school for the summer. Law enforcement officials said the burnings did not appear to be hate crimes.

That did not mollify the residents of the neighborhood, who expressed outrage at the flag burnings, especially in an area where many firefighters, police officers and other civil servants live, they said.

"That's one of the things we liked about the neighborhood," said Susie Campbell, who found her own flag burned to a black mound of soot on her front steps early yesterday. "There's a lot of Americana," she said.

Her husband, Michael Campbell, an electrician with New York City Transit and an Army veteran, said: "We're at war. The flag needs to be flown."

Flags, yellow ribbons and placards that say "Support the Troops" decorate the porches, doorways and windows of the neighborhood's mostly two-story homes.

Andre Mahe thought a fire in his garbage can early yesterday was caused by a cigarette until he noticed his flag missing. "I thought, you're kidding me," he said. "They're burning flags. Around here?" His flag goes up, he said, every year after Memorial Day.

At the home of James and Regina Coyle, a flag had hung from a wooden pole ever since their son, James R. Coyle, a firefighter, was killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Yesterday morning, Ms. Coyle saw the flag reduced to ashes and embers and the pole charred as she stepped out about 6 a.m. to walk her dog.

"The flag, it's part of America," Ms. Coyle said. "Of course we're going to put up another one right away." Residents said they had seen a rash of low-level vandalism in the neighborhood, including tire slashings and graffiti. "Now it's crossed the line," said Martin Merjavy, who lives next door to one of the homes where a flag was burned.

Mr. Campbell said the flag burnings soured a party with a patriotic theme that he held for his daughter Malibu yesterday to celebrate her completing prekindergarten.