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Vandalism in Parks

Violence is not a term restricted to an unjust act against humans. Parks and other public beauty can be subject to cruel, undeserved vandalism, thus making them victims of “cultural violence” (National Parks Service-https://www.nps.gov/articles/vandalism-hurts.htm).

A form of defacing that natural parks often experience is graffiti. Some call it a form of art, but park officials find the offense to be very expensive to remove and challenging to restore the parks back to its natural beauty, “graffiti is vandalism, and is extremely difficult to remove. Repair of vandalized sites, if possible, is costly and time consuming, and often cannot restore the site to its former condition” (National Parks Service-https://www.nps.gov/articles/vandalism-hurts.htm). Even more so, Fox News recently reported from Zion National Parks that rocks and other natural features will not recover fully from vandalism such as spray paint, regardless of how much it is cleaned (Fox News, Salt Lake City- https://fox13now.com/2018/06/17/zion-national-park-reminds-visitors-vandalism-is-not-art/). They remind people that “vandalism is not art.”

Defacing, damaging or painting any part of public parks is a form of vandalism and is illegal. Parks are for the appreciation of nature and the enjoyment of others. When parks are vandalized, it harms the earth and it ruins the experience of visitors. Care for the earth and protect your parks.

Is your park facing loitering problems and vandalism?

Deter Vandalism and Loitering in Parks

Is your park facing loitering problems and vandalism?  Know the key indicators to help solve this problem and what you can do to help your park.

It is not very difficult to discern when a storefront is open for business.  Key indicators often include well-displayed business hours, which are commonly posted next to the main entrance.  Visible sales personnel may signal that a shop is still open for business or an unilluminated sales floor of a store might signal that store is closed.  A line is drawn with store and mall hours being clearly visible.  However, indications of a closed property are not always so obvious.

Most city-owned parks list the rules of the area with signs.  These include allowable recreational activities, dog leash laws, and designated parking spaces.  But the time at which the park closes is sometimes ambiguous.

Generally, as a rule of thumb, city parks tend to close around dusk.  This grey area regarding the park’s operating hours can lead to some oblivious teens or young adults stumbling into an ungated recreational location after hours, imbibed with strong drink and an unwavering drive to wreak havoc, which turns into vandalism. These delinquents are now guilty of committing several misdemeanors, including illegal loitering, public intoxication, and vandalism if the damage is still within the misdemeanor penal code.   If the damage is extensive, the misdemeanor becomes a felony.

Vandalism is an extremely common occurrence in parks after hours. Vandalism most often occurs when a vandal has a good chance of not being caught.  Less public visibility and poor outdoor lighting make a park an easy target for a potential vandal who’s loitering late at night.

There are, however, a few things the Parks Department can do to limit this occurrence:

  • Post Clear Signs– signs displayed near the entrance and exits in well-lit areas let potential lingerers know the park is closed. Be sure the signs are visible and the hours are clearly stated.
  • Motion Sensored Lighting- the more lighting an area has, the less likely vandals will remain. Motion sensored lights save energy while illuminating only when the detector senses motion.
  • Monitoring– regular sweeps conducted by the police department, security guards, and park rangers deter loitering and reduces nuisance crimes.
  • Vandal Resistant Materials– to be used in graffiti prone areas. They are simple to clean if graffiti does occur.
  • Vandalism Deterrent Cameras cameras designed to stop vandalism are very effective and should be placed in strategic areas where crime is most likely to occur.
City Park

Protect the Parks

If your career is in Parks and Recreation, then you are most likely familiar with the NRPA Americans’ Engagement with Parks Survey which was released earlier this year.  The highlights suggest people enjoy the parks and want other people to enjoy the parks as well.  Having a park in the community is important to 9 out of 10 people.

 

The 2016 October NRPA article, Public Park Usage: Motives and Challenges, lists highlights worth noting.  Most of the key points focus on how often people visit the park and why.  Looking at the graph,  58% of the park users came to be with friends and family, and 52% visited to engage in some type of physical activity.  This may come as a surprise, but 3/4 of the people surveyed want more money spent on parks and recreation. Clearly, parks are important to people.  Parks increase the enjoyment of life and maybe even possibly the quality of life, which should be available to all people.

 

Unfortunately, some parks are targeted with graffiti and vandalism.  This causes concern for people who visit the park and the surrounding neighborhood.  Graffiti and vandalism bring down the enjoyment because it defaces the beauty of the park, but it also causes fear.  Parks that bear the burden of graffiti and vandalism lack the presence of security, which causes the park to no longer feel safe. In the same article mentioned above, personal safety was reported as a barrier to 17% of the people surveyed.  That means these people are not able to enjoy the park because of fears that they or the people they care about are not safe at the park.

 

Since parks are an important part of  quality life, it should be important to officials to safe guard the use of the parks for all communities and protect those who use them.  What are you doing to protect the parks?