The message was as plain as day, Davenport Alderman Sheilia Burrage said.

When she stepped out her front door Sunday morning to grab the newspaper, she looked across the street and caught a glimpse of three words spray painted on a neighbor’s car.

“I hate —” the message said, with the third word a racial slur.

“It was just uncalled for,” Burrage said.

The 5th Ward alderwoman immediately called police and reported a hate crime. Her’s is one of two black households in the 2300 block of Jefferson Avenue. She currently is the only black City Council member.

She said the graffiti must have been painted sometime between midnight Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday. When she walked out to the car to take pictures, she saw what may have occurred based on tracks still fresh in the snow.

Two pulled up in a vehicle and the passenger got out to spray paint the neighbor’s car, she said. A van parked down the street was hit with the same hate-filled message.

The owner of the car that was spray painted declined to be interviewed.

Burrage knows all of her neighbors and thinks that no one on her block could have committed the crime.

“I don’t know what neighborhood they came out of, but they came a long way to do this,” she said.

Police are investigating two reports of criminal damage in the neighborhood where graffiti included racial slurs, Davenport Assistant Police Chief Don Schaeffer said.

“This is an intolerable crime,” he said.

Police are seeking help finding the suspects. Schaeffer asks anyone with information to call the Police Department at 563-326-7979 or 563-326-7785.

Scott County Attorney Mike Walton said the incidents could fall under a hate crime. He said a hate crime is an act of assault, arson, criminal mischief or trespass committed against someone because of race, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, age or disability.

Graffiti is classified under criminal mischief, a serious misdemeanor, he said. If it’s found that the suspects also committed a hate crime, the criminal mischief charge is enhanced to an aggravated misdemeanor.

Serving on the city council, Burrage said she’s familiar with graffiti in other parts of Davenport, especially gang graffiti. She said graffiti is often found on concrete walls in alleys and on the sides of commercial buildings.

She’s never seen a vehicle parked on a residential street spray painted with a racial slur, and she’s never before been the victim of this type of hate crime, she said.

“I grew up here,” she said. “I thought I lived in one of the most livable neighborhoods. That was until Saturday. Then all of the sudden, a whirlwind. Where did this come from?”

At first she was shocked, she said. Then she felt upset, and now she feels scared.

“I don’t know what troubled lives they’re leading,” she said. “It’s like being a big bully, a cowardly bully. It’s a subtle, cowardly act.”