by TaLeiza Calloway
Vandalism may be an inevitable occurrence in city parks, but the St. Joseph Police Department is working on ways to help prevent it.
St. Joseph Police Chief Pete Jansky said he is gathering information about the cost of adding surveillance equipment in city parks. While the addition of equipment has been discussed previously, it all comes down to funding.
“Technology is great,” Jansky said. “but it costs money.”
Jansky said depending on the type of camera, prices can range between $500 and $2,000.
Increase in activity
Centennial Park and Kleinfelter Park have been vandalized this year.
“We had a real rash of it this spring,” he said.
There were about a half-dozen incidents in each park this spring. Examples in Centennial include someone putting whole rolls of toilet paper in the toilet, spitting on the walls and mirrors, and the breaking of mirrors.
Jansky said it even got to the point where the bathrooms in Centennial remained locked and a key had to be requested for use. Issues at Kleinfelter include writing and carving on picnic tables and graffiti on playground equipment.
With so many outside visitors, damage to the property makes the city look bad.
“Our parks are our pride,” Jansky said. “We’re always trying to project the city of St. Joseph in a good light . . . it puts a black eye on the city.”
The police chief believes the damage is being done by young people between the ages of 12 and 16. One of the problems in deterring the activity is officers can only be in so many places at one time. However, charges are pending against a young man for alleged vandalism in Centennial Park, Jansky said.
If residents see something amiss going on in the parks, they are asked to alert the police department immediately. They can remain confidential. Jansky also encourages parents to speak to their children about the importance of respecting the parks.
“We always rely on the public’s help as an extra set of eyes and ears,” he said. “We will charge them. If we catch anyone, we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
Punishment for vandalism is more than a mere slap on the wrist. Jansky said misdemeanors are up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. Felonies are starting at a $5,000 fine and one year in jail. And there’s also restitution.
The hope is it does not come to that.
“All people need to do is respect the property,” he said. “Respect the parks. They belong to everybody. When young people go in and vandalize, they’re not only damaging property, but they’re damaging property residents of this city pay for.”
To report vandalism, residents can call the St. Joseph Police Department at 320-263-8250 (non-emergency). For emergencies, always call 911. Residents can also call Tri-County Crime Stoppers at 320-251-1301.