County combatting vandalism

Officials say vandalism is a growing problem for Washington County’s public parks and landings, with thousands of dollars worth of damage being done in recent weeks.

The damage has forced the county to close the bathroom facilities to public use, an action County Administrator Jeff Massey says was a last resort.

“Until we can get a handle on the vandalism and who is committing these acts, we have to keep the bathroom facilities closed,” said Massey. “The county doesn’t want to close them, but we have no choice right now. All we want is for people to enjoy our parks and landings, but a certain faction of people is making that nearly impossible.”

One of the hardest hit locations is Wilder Park in Sunny Hills. According to Massey, the bathroom facilities have been destroyed, holes have been shot through the roof, and the roll-up doors have been caved outward by some sort of ATV. Other parks and landings have seen the same types of damage to the bathrooms, such as broken toilets, sinks and water fountains pulled from walls, doors kicked in and trash strewn around. Massey says when damage occurs, crews fix the problem only to have to re-do it again. “We have been sending crews to make repairs and clean up vandalized areas,” said Massey. “However, after repairs were completed, we would have to send them out again for the same thing. It’s frustrating to keep fixing the same things over and over because some can’t respect property.”

Although the county has spent thousands of dollars, Massey says it’s not about the money it costs to make the repairs. “Money isn’t the issue here,” said Massey. “The issue is the disrespect to those who utilize the facilities. Most of the people who visit these areas are respectful and clean up after themselves. Our issue isn’t with them. Our issue is with those that come and destroy county property.”

The county is placing surveillance cameras at undisclosed locations to help identify those responsible. Massey says it is the county’s hope that footage from the cameras will help catching the vandals.

“At this point, we have no information on who is responsible,” said Massey. “It is our hope that once the cameras are up and running, we will be able to catch those responsible for the damage to our facilities.”

Massey is also enlisting the public to help in identifying the vandals. “If you see something, say something,” he said. “Even if it is a description of a vehicle, a tag number, or even a photo, please report it. We need to find out who is committing these crimes. When we do, it doesn’t matter who they are or how old they are, we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Anyone with information concerning vandalism is asked to report it to Cheryl Frankenfield by email at [email protected] or by calling 850-638-6200.