Charles County sheriff's officers are investigating possible connections between five incidents of racially derogatory graffiti around the county in the past month.

In the most recent incidents, discovered Thursday, "KKK" was found spray painted across roads in Bel Alton and Indian Head. Three incidents discovered earlier this month involved swastikas and racial epithets painted on county buildings and roads in and around La Plata and Indian Head.

On Friday the sheriff's office assigned a detective to investigate the vandalism. Authorities said the incidents have enough common characteristics to suggest they could be the work of the same person or group.

Capt. Joseph Montminy said the graffiti in most of the incidents used similar language, graphics and paint colors. Those similarities and the proximity of the incidents to each other have prompted Montminy to conclude that the incidents are connected.

"It's just too coincidental not to have them related to each other," he said.

Montminy said he doubts that the graffiti are the work of Klan members or other white-power groups. "If history is any indication, it is consistent with juvenile crime," he said. "These [incidents] normally increase in the spring and early summer when kids get out of school."

The most recent incidents were reported Thursday afternoon. About 4:30 p.m., sheriff's officers responded to Mattawoman Court in Indian Head to investigate reports of "KKK" and obscene phrases sprayed on the street, authorities said.

About four hours later, officers went to Chapel Point Road in Bel Alton to investigate another incident of "KKK" sprayed across the street.

In addition, an officer on a routine check Tuesday morning saw someone spray painting a backward swastika and an obscene phrase on a portable toilet at Chapel Point State Park. The person fled before the officer could arrive.

Authorities also said an orange swastika was spray painted on the Southern Park entrance on Wilson Road in Issue between May 15 and June 2. That was the first incident of graffiti in the current string.

There have been about 15 incidents of graffiti laced with racial slurs this year, said Kristen Adkins, public information officer for the Charles County Sheriff's Office. Adkins said that last year there were about 30 such incidents.

"It's about the same as last year, but we take them seriously," she said.

Montminy said patrols would be increased in some areas of the county because of the vandalism.

All of the graffiti have been erased, Montminy said, and officers will continue to look for those responsible, even though they suspect juveniles, rather than hate groups, are involved.

"I've been here 25 years, and I don't remember anyone associated with the Klan spray painting," Montminy said.

He added, "It doesn't make it any less offensive."