Baltimore County police are investigating a possible hate crime after a man robbed four Jewish teens at Towson Town Center and called them anti-Semitic slurs.

Police told 11 News they've arrested Seneca Rice, 34, of Parkville, who was already in custody in Baltimore City on an unrelated assault charge committed hours after the crime in Towson.

Investigators said Rice robbed four Jewish teenage boys as they left the mall. The victims told police that the suspect used anti-Semitic slurs and stole a yarmulke, a skullcap usually worn in public by Orthodox Jewish men or during prayer by other Jewish men.

"Iit was an anti-Semitic statement that was made from the suspect to the four juveniles," Baltimore County police Sgt. Vickie Warehime said.

Police said the alleged robbery took place July 9 near the Fairmount Avenue entrance to Towson Town Center and that Rice used a knife on his belt as a threat.

The Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office is looking into the possibility of hate crime charges because of the stolen yarmulke.

"It is being investigated as a bias incident, which is our protocol for the county. If the charges through the states attorney's office then go up to that hate crime level, that's further down the road in our investigation," Warehime said.

Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said anti-Semitism is on the rise, according to figures from the Anti-Defamation League and the FBI.

"In the last few years, we've seen a rise a rise in anti-Semitic incidents," Libit said. "Taking it seriously from the very beginning sends a really strong message that the county police and county prosecutors take it seriously and they're going to prosecute it appropriately."

Libit called the robbery in Towson troubling.

"To hear that there's this additional component of hate, of anti-Semitism that the alleged suspect said during the incident I'm sure makes it all the more terrifying for the kids to think they're being targeted in some way because they're wearing items of clothing that identify their faith," Libit said.

Libit said he hopes there is a learning lesson in all of this. Read more at WBALTV