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Vandalism and COVID-19

Vandalism and COVID-19

With the COVID-19 and stay at home orders, parks are experiencing an increase in vandalism and graffiti.  It is hard to understand why anyone would want to destroy a park, which is maintained and taken care of for our enjoyment. 

Some vandals may feel the park is part of an institution and destroying the park is a retribution in the eyes of the attacker, who felt they have been wrong by the authorities or maybe the community. 

But although parks are governed by the local authority in the form of park directors and rangers, the parks belong to the community. 

Communities with parks are healthier, both physically and mentally.  Parks provide a safe area to play, walk and enjoy the squirrels.  According to Premier Health, breathing fresh air can raise oxygen in your brain and levels of serotonin.  All this alleviates stress and helps you sleep better.

So, why would people destroy the area created for this purpose?   During the COVID-19 restrictions, even people who normally follow the laws are feeling constrained, depressed and angry.  And those who already tend to push legal boundaries, are lashing out in unlawful ways.

Enforcing the COVID-19 orders is not easy.  During these unpresented times, restraining the public to refrain from using the parks is going to require truth and grace. 

Tools to help:

  • Social Media: Use social media to educate the public on the importance of social distancing
  • Signs: Post signs being clear what is off limits and the rules of social distancing in your parks
  • Barriers: Use barriers to define the areas off limits
  • Nuisance Crime Cameras: Nuisance Crime Cameras were designed to stop all unwanted activity and can be customized to stop COVID activities in your park

#vandalisminparks

Park Vandalism Hurts

Park Vandalism Hurts

Park Vandalism Hurts

Did you know one of the first parks built on public lands for public use was between 61 and 55 BCE? The Porticus Pompeiana, one of Ancient Rome’s first public parks was created with pools, fountains and plants of all kinds and was intended to be a space for people to walk, relax and enjoy leisure activities.  Today our public parks are created with the same mindset and to help bring communities and families together. Unfortunately, parks have become the victims of nuisance crimes such as: illegal dumping, theft, and especially vandalism.

Vandalism in the parks can take on many forms such as graffiti and the destruction of public property.  The least costly wreckage is the destruction of signs, but some more costly targets are streetlights, pavilions and public bathrooms, which can be very costly to repair.  Unfortunately, parks are a public attraction for vandalism.

Park Vandals are at times younger people who are bored and looking for mischief.  However, when vandalism occurs in parks, it is highly related to gangs within the community who are responsible for this crime. Gangs use graffiti to tag “their property” and to make rival gangs and the community aware of their “ownership”.  Park Officials who spend many hours in the planning and care for their parks need to take back the parks, because if the destruction either in the form of graffiti or vandalism remains long, it empowers the gangs to further violence.  The community, the intended recipients of the park, then becomes fearful to even walk close to the park.    

What does it mean to take back the park? To take back the park means to show the gangs that the park is not theirs, it is owned by the community.   

How to Prevent Park Vandalism:

Prevent Park Vandalism

Prevent Park Vandalism

There are many diverse park programs and activities available to a community’s children, as well as adults. These programs are important to the community as they are necessary to help children develop proper social bonds and cues, and to curb childhood obesity through various physical activities. Park programs also have the ability to help young adults steer clear of criminal activity by providing a means to distract from what would otherwise be idle time.

When a park suffers an act of vandalism, the resulting consequences can prove to be very unproductive in regards to park programs and patrons. A vandalized park can lead to the perception that it is an unsafe environment for patrons of the park. Graffiti vandalism is often a key indicator that criminal activity exists in the park in which it occurs, causing concern for parents who have enrolled their children in a program.

When park equipment used in activities is vandalized, replacement equipment or repairs can total in the tens of thousands. Damaged equipment also raises safety concerns for those who use it, costing the park program participants and leaving little in the way of a budget to pay for repairs.

Implementation and program scheduling can be a tedious task for program directors and activity administers. A lack of enrollment in various activities held at a park that has been recently vandalized can easily stifle, as well as stop altogether, the program in which many children and young adults would benefit from. This lack of enrollment is often traced directly to the perception that the park is an unsafe environment for children and young adults to patronize.

If measures are taken to ensure the safety of a parks environment by preventing crimes such as vandalism, there is a less likelihood of these types of crimes being committed. Preventing criminal activity safeguards and fortifies our parks beneficial programs for those who need them most.

Park Vandalism Affects our Community

Park Vandalism Affects our Community

Our community’s public parks were built in order to bring recreation and joy to all who patronize them. Why certain individuals decide to vandalize these wonderful places, we may never fully know. Whether it’s to blow off steam or mindless boredom, the fact remains that our parks are easily accessible to the public, and as such, will continue to be a likely target for would-be vandals. What these vandals obviously do not take into consideration, however, is the toll the consequences of their actions have on the community that enjoys visiting these beautiful places.

In addition to the physical dangers vandalism incurs at our parks, the emotional distress that park patrons suffer upon learning they are victims of this heinous crime is also of serious concern. “The impact of vandalism, as well as other related crime, on victims results in emotional, psychological, physical, financial, social, and spiritual consequences” (National Institute of Mental Health, 2006). Children who frequent parks are inspired to develop their creative imagination and social bonds when they are engaged in what’s known as “free play”. In the event of park closure due to an act of vandalism, children are deprived of this emotional development which can lead to complications such as depression and anxiety in social situations. A child may not fully comprehend how or why someone has vandalized their play area, leading to acting out anger episodes and fits.

When a Virginia Beach park’s playground equipment was vandalized with derogatory sayings in January of 2015, children who had regularly enjoyed the park were visibly upset by the act. Izabella Garcia told ABC news, “It makes me feel uncomfortable to be on the swings and look at what they wrote. It just makes me feel like I shouldn’t be there.” Izabella mentioned that it makes her not want to play there anymore, which shows firsthand the distress vandalism causes to children.

Parks that suffer from recurrent vandalism may be perceived by community members that neighborhood crime is on the rise, causing fear, mistrust, and anxiety towards other residents. This type of personal isolation leaves a community more susceptible and vulnerable to further crime and acts of violence. Forcing the neighborhood in which one lives down a dark road of crime and urban decay. 

It is important the parks departments deter these nuisance crimes to prevent the emotional distress these crimes cause the community.