A nativity scene in downtown Toronto has been vandalized -- an act described as a hate crime by the group that built the display.

The nativity scene outside Old City Hall on Queen Street West features figurines of Mary and Joseph, as well as baby Jesus lying in a manger with upraised palms. Farm animals are grouped around the couple and the entire display is set up in a stable.

Vandals broke the Plexiglas on the front of the display, then smashed the head off of a lamb that was part of the scene.

It's the sixth time in seven years that the nativity scene has been vandalized.

Suresh Dominic, of the Catholic group Gethsemane Ministries which installs the display each year, told the Toronto Star it will cost about $1,000 to repair the damage.

He said the vandalism was a "deliberate act" and constitutes a hate crime.

Toronto police are investigating the incident, and warned Friday that crime tends to increase during the holiday season -- especially thefts.

In a news release, police advised Torontonians to protect themselves from becoming a victim of crime by taking the following precautions:

  • Ensure that postal packages and parcels are delivered in person and never left unattended.
  • Do not leave valuables in your vehicle, and if it is necessary to do so, lock them in the trunk.
  • Always lock your vehicle and set the alarm if possible.
  • Do not leave vehicles unattended when running.
  • Lock your doors and windows at home and set an alarm if possible.
  • Within your residence, keep keys in a secure place such as a locking drawer or cabinet.
  • Have a neighbour collect your newspapers and mail when you are away.