Families in Markham, Ont. say they are stunned and angry after waking up Sunday to find anti-Semitic and race-related graffiti scrawled over the playgrounds of three area schools.

Families bringing their children to play in the school yards Sunday morning found the words “White Power” and “KKK” and swastikas spray-painted on the slide at William Armstrong Public School. Similar graffiti was found at Reesor Park P.S. and at Markham District High School.

York Regional Police Insp. Alvara Almeida said investigators believe the incidents are connected.

“We’ve been investigating throughout the day and as early as 6 p.m. this evening, we’ve determined that all three are connected and we believe the same group of individuals is responsible for all three incidents,” he told CTV Toronto.

Almeida added that police are investigating the incidents as hate crimes.

“We treat these matters very seriously, given the nature of the material and the messages that were painted onto school property,” he said.

One local mother named Jenn, whose child attends William Armstrong School, says she's never seen anything like this before.

"I wondered how I would explain this to my seven-year-old, who lost family in Auschwitz,” she said, fighting back tears.

Jenn joined several other families in the neighbourhood who decided to scrub off the paint themselves using sponges, soap and water, rather than wait for the school board to take care of it.

Over at Ressor Park Public School, the offensive graffiti has now been painted over until the school is able to repaint the damaged walls.

In a statement released Monday, York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe said police do not tolerate hate crime in any form, which he said hurts not only those who are targeted, but the community as a whole.

“Crimes like these are devastating to everyone who takes pride in being part of such a diverse and inclusive community,” Jolliffe said.

He called on the community to share information that will help them find those responsible for the crimes, while also encouraging the perpetrators to seek legal advice and turn themselves in.

Anyone with information about the incidents is urged to contact York Regional Police or call Crime Stoppers anonymously.

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Jamie Mauracher