Vandalism in Lakeville parks costs thousands a year
Graffiti, property damage most common examples
A walk in some Lakeville parks reveals some marks of mischief: Graffiti has adorned walls and someone had even broken a few windows.
What appears mostly to be a nuisance actually carries a sizeable cost to the taxpayer. Last year about 20 incidents of vandalism occurred, the repair of which cost about $12,000, according to Steve Michaud, parks and recreation director for the city.
On average, he said, the parks experience between 20 and 30 instances of vandalism a year. The types of vandalism range from graffiti to badly-damaged bathrooms.
Michaud said he has seen toilet dividers smashed in. People will also ruin turf by driving on it. He has even seen portable toilets tipped over.
So far this year vandalism has centered on Antlers, Dakota Heights and Bunker Hills parks. All three incidents happened in the last week-and-a-half, Michaud said.
In Antlers and Dakota, the damage was mostly “tagging,” which is when a person leaves a distinctive mark with graffiti. The Bunker Hills incident was a bit more involved. Someone or some people had “busted out the windows and doors,” he said.
Cleaning up after these acts takes time and money.
“Tagging takes a lot of time to wash off,” Michaud said, “or you have to paint over it. But the worst of all cases is having to go out and fix stuff while we’re busy doing other things.”
Aside from the chore of cleaning up after tagging (and the $200-$300 price point), to replace windows and doors in a park’s bathroom can carry with it a significant cost.
A single broken slide at Meadows Park last year cost $1,200 to replace, or 10 percent of the total cost of damages last year.
All of that involves using labor and materials that weren’t planned for.
“We don’t budget for vandalism,” Michaud said.
This means that the money comes out of other projects and initiatives. But the city’s policy is to address vandalism as a priority, Michaud said, because “the worst thing you can do is leave it there. It could attract more.”
Which parks receive the most vandalism varies. One year’s problem area could be the next year’s bastion of serenity.
“In certain areas it is an issue for a couple-three years,” he said. “Then all of a sudden we don’t know where they go.”
Antlers Park experiences a healthy chunk of vandalism because it is among the busiest in the city – Its location on the shores of Lake Marion makes it an attractive recreation place for residents of the city and beyond.
Last year, police went undercover to catch a cadre of young adults who were vandalizing the park in a variety of fashions.
If a perpetrator is caught, there are a number of consequences. The city could settle with the person or group or their parents for the cost of repairs, Michaud said, or there is the possibility of criminal charges.
Beyond that, there is another effective measure: banishment. Michaud said the city has the authority to ban someone from a particular park or the entire system.
“We have used it over the years,” he said.
Who vandalizes is not specific to one demographic group, Michaud said.
“We’re experiencing (the cycle) right now in a couple of places,” he said. “It’s just a group of people in a neighborhood that don’t respect public property.”