St. Francis park vandalism comes to grinding halt

It appears that the criminals, as yet not arrested, responsible for the expensive and destructive string of vandalism to St. Francis’s Seelye Brook Park may have got wind of recent media coverage and citizen outrage.

St. Francis City Administrator Matt Hylen told the St. Francis City Council Nov. 5 that there have been zero incidents of vandalism in the park since the crimes were covered in both television and newspaper reports about a month ago.

One resident who attended an Oct. 16 town meeting to discuss the park vandalism had predicted the pause in the crime, saying she had heard that the juveniles behind much of the vandalism were now “scared to death” of being caught.

Following that Oct. 16 meeting, city staff researched potential courses of action the city could take in response to the vandalism, which has cost the city an estimated $35,000 in just the past two years. The expenses include broken playground equipment, shot-out light fixtures, turf damage, four fires and 75 chopped-down or otherwise damaged trees.

Among the options Hylen listed for the council Monday were installing hidden cameras for about $2,000; installing fencing around the park and to block off the parking lot for about $9,640; completely redesigning the park for somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000; or simply doing nothing.

Since the vandalism has stopped for now, Hylen recommended going with that last and cheapest option for now. However, he did request some direction from the council on how to proceed if the crimes resume.

The ensuing discussion included councilmembers Steve Kane’s and Tim Brown’s observations that the neighbors around the park have much greater awareness of the issue and are keeping a keener eye out as a result of the town meeting.

Councilmembers agreed that it makes sense to do nothing further unless the crimes do in fact resume.

Kane said that if the vandalism does start up again, he’d personally like the city to install the hidden cameras so that the vandals can be apprehended.