Genoa village police are stepping up patrols to combat vandalism at Veterans Memorial Park.
The busy summer season is days away but problems have already erupted in large doses as warmer weather sets in.
“We’ve had some vandalism, some cavorting in the park,” Village Administrator Kevin Gladden said. “… They are destroying playground equipment, building huts in the woods and we’ve found all sorts of paraphernalia lying around.”
Maintenance crews report someone is pulling branches off new saplings planted throughout the public park and knocking signs off fences at the ball park.
Even the new pirate ship made of recycled materials purchased through a partnership with the village and the O-S-S Solid Waste District has fallen victim to the vandalism spree. “They tore the ladder off of it,” Gladden said.
“It’s disheartening because this is for the kids,” Police Chief Bob Bratton said of the park equipment damaged throughout the area. “I’m not sure what has gotten into them this year. They are being so destructive.”
Veterans Park is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
But the summer season doesn’t officially start until Memorial Day weekend. That’s when the quarry opens for swimming, picnic tables are pulled from storage and the bathrooms are unlocked.
“That’s when we’ll also start having some other problems. They plug up the toilets, try to pull the partitions off between the bathrooms,” Gladden said.
Authorities say they believe the culprits are between 13 and 17 years old. Similar vandalism happened in the spring and summer of 2012, causing police to suspend access to the park for those involved for the rest of the year. There is no proof that those involved last year are to blame this time around though, Bratton pointed out.
“We’ll just have to be vigilant with our patrols and see what happens,” the chief said.
In recent weeks, village workers have torn down two makeshift huts constructed in the park’s woods. They’ve also cleaned up the junk strewn about including condoms, cigarette packages and food wrappers as well as fire pits.
At the same time, police increased their car and foot patrols around the park.
“They will be getting out of the car more and walking around the park. You need to do that at some parts of the park to really see what’s going on. And we’ll be doing it at varying hours,” Bratton said. “No one should really be in there after dusk.”
Late night visitors could be slapped with a citation for violating the village code regarding the park hours, the chief said. A second violation could result in a criminal trespassing charge. Still others could face littering or curfew violations. Teens age 16 and below are supposed to be off Genoa streets by 10 p.m. Seventeen-year-olds have until 11 p.m. to get home.
“We try to work with people,” Bratton said. “In some cases it’s obvious that people are just running a little late and they aren’t up to anything.”