April 19, 2006

Vandalism In Village

Independent /Courtesy of Village of Greenport Graffiti in Mitchell Park. (click for larger version)
On the streets of Greenport, a group of disenfranchised youth have been expressing discontent in the form of vandalism.

According to Greenport Mayor David Kapell, there has been "a rather serious outbreak of vandalism," particularly at the village's recreational facilities.

At last Thursday's village board work session, the mayor explained that the vandalism appears to be the work of a group of local youths and has affected Mitchell Park and Marina, the skatepark, and most recently, a water department building on Moore's Lane where a contractor's backhoe was also damaged.

The vandalism has taken the form of graffiti, destruction of utility pedestals on the new docks and damage to a bathroom.

Kapell reported that he'd met with Southold Town Police Captain Martin Flatley to discuss the problem, as well as ways to address the issue in the


Even prior to meeting with Kapell, Flatley said the Southold Town Police have been aware of the criminal mischief that has been taking place in Mitchell Park. The damage has been "youth-oriented," said Flatley, caused by approximately a dozen kids hanging out in the park on a regular basis, and includes decking destroyed by youth skateboarding on the edges: "A lot of it is just petty criminal mischief but it's still costly to the


For the last several weeks, police have addressed the issue by having officers on foot patrol in Mitchell Park during their shifts. The town's K-9 unit has also been patrolling during the evening hours.

As the weather gets warmer, the plan is for officers to embark upon bicycle patrols both in the village business district and Mitchell Park. "It's really an effective way of patrolling. Bikes can get in more quickly than officers on foot. They can cover a little bit more ground," said Flatley.

Part of the problem is that there have been several arrests in the area of homeless individuals "in and around Mitchell Park," explained the captain. If police officers are making arrests for disorderly conduct, he said, "you're taking the officer out of the village for the time it takes to do the paperwork. The more you enforce, it also depletes the amount of visible manpower."

But, said Flatley, targeting vandals is a priority. "We are well aware of it and plan to keep addressing the issue."

In addition to enhanced police enforcement, Kapell reported that the Guardian Angels in the village are prepared to take a stand: "The Guardian Angels have decided to make vandalism its top priority." And, because the Guardian Angels have "some extra money in the till," as a result of fundraising efforts and frugality, they have decided to offer a $250 reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects. Signs advertising the rewards will be posted at the affected sites.

Patrols will increase as the warm weather arrives with support from veteran Guardian Angels sent to Greenport from New York City by Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa.

Enforcement, said Kapell, is only one aspect of the solution: "Vandalism is symptomatic of a deeper problem." And, although he said he was "not here with solutions," the mayor reminded that after the skatepark was built, there were no reported incidents of vandalism in the village "for a long time."

The reason? The realization by a generation of young people that the village had made a commitment "to giving them something they wanted," said Kapell. "We need to engage today's kids and see what they want."

Kapell asked Trustee Val Shelby, who heads up the village recreation committee, for her help with outreach.

Shelby, who recently organized a successful video game event at the Mary H. Rec Center, said that area youth have been reaching out and asking for various programs.

The problem, said Kapell, is that the kids asking for programs are not the same young people who are vandalizing the streets.

"It is true that we don't want to tolerate this vandalism, and to that end, the village will aggressively pursue enforcement," said Kapell. But the mayor also wants to reach out to young people who are causing the problem and address the more deeply rooted issues motivating their behavior. "What can we do to help?" he asked.

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