Patrols by the Ottawa County K-9 unit and officers in unmarked cars will be used by Genoa police this summer to foil vandalism at Veterans Park.
Police Chief Bob Bratton outlined a list of new ideas for heightened security at Genoa’s main park during a recent village council meeting.
“We put a program together. The whole thing will be based on the element of surprise. We’re going to have officers in plain clothes at night, some in unmarked cars and we’ll be bringing in the county K-9 unit at times,” Bratton said in a telephone interview.
The efforts interested village council because of a recent outbreak of extreme vandalism across the park including damaged trees, broken park signs and evidence of fires in the wooded area.
In early May, Genoa police in uniform began extra foot patrols through the area to combat problems. Most of the damage appears to happen at night after the park closes at dusk.
And those efforts appear to be deterring further destruction, Bratton said.
“We’ve got about 18 hours in the park patrols,” Bratton said about the May schedule. “But we don’t want to cut our other duties short.”
Traffic, however, at the park is about to pick up dramatically. Veterans Park, including the quarry, opened for the season over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Genoa Homecoming is Friday night and Saturday. Plus, area schools are letting out for the summer. Genoa students spent their last day in class Wednesday.
And when school lets out, the park is a place for kids to congregate, the chief said.
That is why Genoa police have asked for the assistance of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department and its K-9 unit operated by Deputy Mark Nye and his canine companion, Nero, a three-year-old Belgium Malinois.
“The unit works the afternoon shifts in the west end of the county. We will call him in occasionally to check the park. The dog will always be on a leash,” Bratton explained.
The dog is also trained to identify marijuana on the premises. In the past, pot smoking, especially in the wooded area, has been a problem.
“We’re using all of these as a means to secure the park,” Bratton said.
Those trespassing can be cited for violating the village code and earn a trip to Ottawa County Municipal Court. Other charges possible include vandalism, curfew violation and maybe even drug possession.
Last year, a group of area teens were banned from the park from the season after they were tied to a number of the problems there.
There’s no evidence that local kids are to blame for the newest wave of problems though, Bratton emphasized.
The basketball courts attract a number of players from the area including Toledo, based on the license plates, he added. “We keep an eye on all of them,” the chief said.
This is Bratton’s second summer as chief. He said he’s been told that the park vandalism is nothing new. “I’ve heard this has gone on every couple of years in the park. But the damage seems to be a lot worse this year.