Vandalism to picnic tables raises concerns
by Terra Temple
Aug 24, 2011 | 1895 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
They say a picture's worth a thousand words. To the Metropolis City Council on Monday night, pictures of the four newly installed picnic tables at Washington Park were worth $600 each. While the photos showed vulgar writing and doodles on the tables, "there's quite a bit of this vandalism going on," Mayor Billy McDaniel informed the council. "It's actually on the Elliott house; they've taken spray paint and painted a lot of this same kind of stuff. They marked all over the (Washington Park) gazebo; we constantly are trying to paint that over. We just cleaned (picnic tables) up at Dorothy Miller Park not very long ago. . . . It's just down right vulgar." McDaniel said the vandalism was cleaned as soon as city officials became aware of it. However, he noted he's not sure how long it was there and that in cleaning them "with a chemical that you have to take to get those markers off there, you've defaced the tables." Police believe the vandalism is taking place at night in isolated areas.

"The police department is very concerned about the amount of vandalism that's going on in our parks and property that we we own," McDaniel told the council. "The police are urging we take some kind of action." McDaniel said that action may mean posting signs in parks stating non-adult supervised youth will be considered trespassing if there between certain hours. He noted that while the city has a curfew, "we need something that has enough (bite) that if the police find them in the parks and it's posted that if you're in a park after a certain time in the evening, especially after dark . . . "It's a shame you've got to come to stuff like that," he continued. "We gotta be careful how we do it. We don't want to penalize our citizens who get home from work at night and take family members to the park for recreation but after dark there's not many reasons you need to be at the park. . . . The bad part about it is we have a tremendous amount of good people and a tremendous amount of young people that are good, good kids. It's a shame that one or two people seem like they always get the attention but then you've got to do something you don't want to do and the good citizens are the ones who always suffer." McDaniel cited past vandalism problems at Metropolis Sports Park, which "seems like it's a little better than it was. We had a lot of problems at the skateboard park for a while with writing and stuff. Now that's gotten better for whatever reason and it may be that the police and in the summertime the sports park is full, there's plenty of traffic there. "I believe it's the isolated time and the isolated section and stuff like that and I believe it's after dark," he said of the current situation. McDaniel said he wasn't sure what the answer is and encouraged the council to be thinking about solutions to the problem for discussion at a committee meeting. Alderman Bob Midnight encouraged public notification prior to that meeting so input can be gained. "We need to take note — it wasn't that long ago we closed the recycle bins for that very same thing. Nobody stood up, nobody said anything so we just closed it. We heard about it afterwards but this is the kind of stuff we have to do. The citizens are upset with us, but my gosh, this is their city," Midnight said. "We're going to hear about this too. If people take their families over there and this is the kind of stuff they're seeing, they're not going to go back to our parks." The City of Metropolis has 12 parks. Pris Abell, the city's Parks & Recreation director, noted none are immune from vandalism. "Our people are very generous and spreading the wealth. They don't play favorites," Abell said. "There doesn't seem to be one park they are targeting." Over the last several years, the vandalism has ranged from the burning down of two portapotties and the attempt to burn down two more in Dorothy Miller Park; the burning of a trash can at Dorothy Miller Park; the cutting off of the rubber seat on an infant swing at Metropolis Sports Park; the removal of all the bolts from a set of bleachers at American Legion Park; and the shooting out of light ballasts at Lindsey Park. This year alone replacements include: eight adult swings, "chains and all" that were cut or intentionally broken, and four infant swings, which cost $180 each. The department buys chain by the bucket for swing replacement. "We have to pay for all of this. That cost is passed on to taxpayers. We're all paying for it," Abell said. "There's not enough at one time to file an insurance claim so it's all out of pocket and it all adds up after a while. It comes out of the (department's) miscellaneous budget. We have these brand new tables that people call to say they enjoy and the first thing they do is ruin them. People complain there's nothing to do — it's because we're spending money on repairs and replacement. I'd like to do improvements and ideally have new stuff in all the parks but I know that can't be done." Abell noted that while "a lot of it is vandalism for the sake of vandalism" there's also the danger such acts pose to those who use the parks. "We just need this to stop," she said. "If kids are doing this, their parents need to be held accountable. This type of behavior is not acceptable." When vandalism occurs, the police are called and pictures are taken for evidence. Charges are filed when the suspect is found. Finding the individual or individuals, Abell noted, is the difficulty. She said anyone with information concerning any vandalism is encouraged to contact the police department. She noted if individuals want to make anonymous reports, they can contact her or city hall. "We can't continue to let the vandalism just take our city over and get to the point where the citizens who want to use those parks have to put up with stuff like that," McDaniel said.

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