Malicious vandalism causing thousands of dollars in damage
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IDAHO FALLS — Over the last three weeks, parks around Idaho Falls have seen a dramatic rise in the amount of vandalism and malicious destruction. Damage has ranged from smashed toilets, shards of glass on the ground, kicked off sprinkler heads and ripped up irrigation systems and defacement of playgrounds.
“We are definitely seeing an uptick in the amount of vandalism,” said PJ Holm, Parks and Recreation Director for Idaho Falls.
Holm says this is the worst he’s seen in his nine-year career with the city. The vandalism has been happening in parks like Community, Tautphaus, Freeman, Old Butte, Highland, and along the Greenbelt River Walk.
“It’s just kind of becoming a concern that has gone beyond graffiti that’s costing the city money and the community tax dollars,” he said.
Costs to repair the damages over the three-week period have reached nearly $10,000.
It’s not just the city of Idaho Falls that is dealing with these issues.
A few days ago, the city of Ammon posted the following on its Facebook page:
“There have been two recent incidents of vandalism at the Ammon splash pad fixtures. As a result, it is not running properly. The splash pad will be closed tomorrow morning to make repairs. We are hopeful it can be done quickly. A great deal of time and money was put into offseason repairs. Please help us keep it open, in good repair, and easily accessible for all to enjoy.”
The splash pad is back open now. Ammon Recreation Coordinator Randal Miller told EastIdahoNews.com they are going to get better surveillance cameras to combat vandals. He also explained they are working with the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office to find those involved.
In Roberts at the Jim Moore pond, graphic graffiti was written on docks. Maintenance crews are cleaning up the graffiti by the end of the week.
“With COVID, there has been kind of a boom, an influx of people that are headed to the outdoors that are enjoying camping and being outside so we have definitely seen an increase in the amount of use that these places get, and with that comes, unfortunately, people that are being irresponsible with their trash and vandalizing. I would say that we’ve had a slight uptick,” said James Brower, Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
In Rigby, mailboxes were trashed and destroyed.
“It’s kind of shocking when you realize someone decided to smash my mailbox for no apparent reason. I have never done anything to anyone,” said Justin Beckley, who had his mailbox damaged near 200 North within the last month.
In Bonneville County, a woman was upset after she told EastIdahoNews.com that someone threw fireworks in her mailbox and blew it to pieces, causing serious damage.
Back in Idaho Falls, Holm says he’s hoping to solve this issue as a community.
“We want to start a program that is going to be a park steward program that neighbors and folks that live around the parks can just keep an extra eye out and if they see something happening at the park that’s maybe not your typical use of the park to let us know,” he said.
During the summer, two Idaho Falls Police officers are assigned full-time to patrol and addressing problems in city parks and public areas.
At this time, Idaho Falls police believe that damage is possibly being caused by groups of kids late at night.
The Idaho Falls Police Department encourages the community to report vandalism or damaged equipment to the Parks & Recreation Department. People who witness vandalism occurring are encouraged to call Idaho Falls Police dispatch at (208) 529-1200. The next available officer will be sent to intervene and investigate the situation.
Anyone who can provide the identity of those involved is also encouraged to report the information to the police at (208) 529-1200.