OTTAWA -- Ottawa police are investigating after homophobic graffiti was painted on the road outside Mayor Jim Watson's west end Ottawa home.

A statement from the mayor's office says one of Watson's neighbours noticed the expletive and homophobic slur Sunday morning and called police.

"It hits a little closer to home when it's at home," Watson said on Monday. 

Watson said when he first saw the message, he didn't know what it was.

"I'd seen in the morning, some scrawl, and I didn't pay much attention to it because I was on my way out to some other event," he told Newstalk 580 CFRA. "I walked by it and it just looked like a bunch of graffiti. My neighbour pointed out that I was looking at it upside down," he said.

It was at that point that the mayor saw the expletive and homophobic slur.

"It was a little disconcerting," Watson said. "You go home and you want to feel safe and comfortable in your own home, but look, I'm not the only one. There's, unfortunately, such an increase in hate crimes. We've seen it in Ottawa and we've seen it around the world."

City crews have washed the graffiti away, but it has left a lingering stain on the capital’s landscape.

“All people deserve to be treated with the same respect and shown the same consideration.  And no one should have to live in fear for their safety for being who they are,” said Ottawa City Councillor, Diane Deans.

It was supposed to be a weekend celebrating Mayor Watson’s unprecedented years of service.  That milestone, however, was marred by hate and intolerance.

“You know I often wonder why someone would go to that much trouble to be that hateful,” said Watson.

Sabine Couture walks her dogs down Watson’s street. 

“It’s completely inappropriate and not reflective of this neighbourhood whatsoever,” Couture said.

“It’s 2021 and with all the education that is happening now, I can’t believe someone would go to these lengths to write something like that. It’s absolutely deplorable.”

Ottawa police are following leads and checking potential recordings from security cameras in the area. The incident is being treated as a hate crime.

Watson called the rise in reported hate incidents targeting a variety of groups worrisome.

"We're a big city now. We're over a million people and with that, unfortunately, there's a percentage of people who have a lot of hate in their heart and want to do harm through words or actions like spray-painting and so on," he said. "I'm glad that the (police) chief has re-established the hate crimes unit. They're going to be busy and will be busy with lots of calls, but I think we just have to stand up against this kind of unacceptable behaviour."

"The mayor is disappointed that someone would spend anytime and effort to attack someone's sexual orientation and deface public property," said the statement from the Mayor's Office to CTV News Ottawa Sunday evening.

"He is grateful for his neighbour's vigilance and the quick response by the OPS as well as the city's Works Department."

The incident led to an outpouring of support for the mayor online, including from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he was "appalled by the news."

"There is no place for this ignorant and inexcusable hate in this city- or anywhere in our country," Trudeau tweeted. "Jim, know that Canadians across the country are standing with you."

Watson thanked everyone who reached out for their support during his interview with CFRA's Leslie Roberts. He said he believes most people in Ottawa are not hateful people.

"I still think the vast majority of people in Ottawa are good, decent people and this is a very, very small fraction," he said. "Unfortunately, they have a disproportionately loud voice when they go off and do something very publicly, whether it's defacing a mosque or a synagogue or the end of my driveway."

In a statement on Twitter, Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly said the Ottawa Police Service's Hate Crimes Unit will investigate.

"We are investigating an incident of hate graffiti reported to police today outside of the mayor's home. Our service has no tolerance for hate crimes of any kind," said Sloly.

"It's important that these incidents are reported to police so we can investigate and hold perpetrators responsible."

Sloly reinstated Ottawa's in early 2020. The number of hate crimes in Ottawa rose 57 per cent last year, according to newly data from Ottawa police.

Police say there were 182 hate crimes cases reported in 2020, up from 116 the previous year

The graffiti was noticed one day after Watson became the longest serving mayor in Ottawa's history.

In August 2019, Watson came out as a gay man, on the eve of the annual Capital Pride Festival.

"I've known I was gay since I was a teenager," said Watson in the 2019 interview with CTV News Ottawa.

"It's something I've struggled with for a long time."

Watson said Monday that he hopes this incident does not discourage other LGBTQ2S+ people from following their dreams.

"The message I give to young people is there's way more people in this community who are going to be supportive and kind and thoughtful with your struggle and with your decision than there are that are going to criticize you," he said. "I've only been out for a couple of years. When I did come out I got a lot of feedback from parents and young people who said it gives their sons and daughters a role model. I hope this doesn't set back an individual's desire to be themselves."

With files from CTV's Joel Haslam