Two 19-year-old men have been charged with arson in the burning of a swastika two weeks ago on a Rockville family's lawn, Montgomery County fire officials said yesterday.

Gary L. Stein of Gaithersburg and John F. Finnegan III of Rockville were arrested Monday and have been released on personal recognizance, according to Capt. Ray Mulhall. If convicted, they could spend up to three years in jail and be fined $5,000, he said.

In the July 15 incident, family members and their guests awoke about 4:45 a.m. to find part of their front lawn on fire in the pattern of a swastika, according to a family friend staying with them.

"We were all scared, of course," she said. Family members said they could not think why they would be a target of such aggression, she said. "They are really a peaceful family and get along with everybody," she said, asking that her name not be used. Fire officials would not release the family's name.

Also, one of the family's cars in the front of the house had been "rolled" with toilet paper, Mulhall said. The family and Finnegan live in the 800 block of Duke Street, near Montgomery College.

Fire officials said they are investigating to see if the incident is related to other hate violence occurrences in the county. There were 59 such incidents reported in the first six months of this year, according to Officer Daniel Griffith of the county police department.

The police department has been recording statistics on hate violence acts since 1980, and the number of incidents reported increased dramatically from 25 in 1980 to a high of 195 in 1985. Statewide reports have ranged from 350 to 505 hate violence acts in the past six years, most by juveniles, Griffith said.

Montgomery has a high reporting rate because it has a well-developed system of encouraging reports, according to Griffith. The police department holds seminars with minority community leaders to educate about and encourage reporting of incidents. When an incident happens, Griffith is notified immediately, details are passed on to the county Human Relations Commission, and police assign an investigator, Griffith said.

Hate violence acts include assault, cross burning, vandalism, harassment and arson directed against ethnic or religious minorities. In 1982, the County Council established a $20,000 hate violence fund to offer rewards to encourage witnesses to come forward, Griffith said.

Elyse Rothschild of the Human Relations Commission said the perpetrators of the July 15 swastika burning "may not know the total implication and impact on the victim, but they certainly know {a swastika} is a hateful and intimidating sign."