Rendell said he thought the city sent a strong signal about racial harassment last year when a white Fishtown mother and her two sons got jail terms for a baseball-bat assault on a deaf African-American woman in her home.
``That's what people who did this type of stuff deserve,'' Rendell said.
``They deserve to go to prison. And the police are going to do everything they can to find out who did this.''
Unknown vandals wrote ``DIE'' in ketchup on Ward's steps and scrawled racial insults on a sign left at her house.
Rendell said that he would meet with Ward and that the city Commission on Human Relations would help soothe neighborhood tensions.
He added that intense media coverage, while inevitable, did not help.
``I think the media tends to get carried away and blow these things out of proportion,'' he said. ``You take a small group of idiots and say they speak for the Bridesburg community. They don't speak for the Bridesburg community.''
Rendell said he was dismayed by reports that a neighbor of Ward's displayed a Confederate flag within sight of her home.
``You have the constitutional right to be a jerk,'' Rendell said. ``I can't change that . . . but your constitutional right to be a jerk has limits. And you do anything that comes close to a violation of the ethnic intimidation statute, and we're going to prosecute you and try to throw your rear end in jail.''
Rendell said flying the Confederate flag was a constitutionally protected right.
Kevin Vaughan, director of the city's Commission on Human Relations, said he's had senior staff in the area since the incident occurred.
None of his aides saw the flag, which appeared on some television news footage yesterday.
``Ms. Ward, like many people who move, put her hopes and dreams in this house,'' Vaughan said.
He added that he's working to see that there is peace between her and her neighbors.