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Parents can stop vandalism

Parents in the village of Woodsfield are living through what many would call a “teachable moment” right now.

About a year ago, village leaders invested in their community. All told, they spent about $90,0000 to make Woodsfield City Park a more accommodating place for residents.

The improvements included construction of a pavilion, paving the basketball courts and installing barbecue grills. Village leaders made it a place where more families could spend more time together doing many things that they love.

Now, what do they have to show for it? A lot of damage.

Village Council on Monday voted to close the park to the general public due to repeated acts of vandalism. For months, municipal police officers have been trying to catch the vandals in the act. The problem became so bad that the village also invested more money — in surveillance cameras.

In total, Village Administrator Kevin Brooks estimates that the damage amounts to about $20,000 in repair costs. He said the restrooms have been set on fire (that’s not just vandalism, it’s arson), the restroom and maintenance doors have been kicked in, exterior light bulbs have been stolen repeatedly, rocks have been thrown at the pavilion causing exterior damage, and all the playground equipment has had profanity carved into it.

“Those are just the highlights … ,” he said. “At what point does it stop and how are we going to stop it if we continue to allow it to happen?”

Council members acted wisely when they voted to close the facility — and when they agreed that residents who register for a permit can still access the park. That way, the facility can still be available to families, but village leaders can also know who is on site at any given time.

Surveillance and investigation of these incidents has shown that the perpetrators are youngsters, probably between the ages of 12 and 15 in most cases. Unfortunately, not enough detailed information has been collected thus far to allow officers to file charges.

But this information should alarm parents in the village. Of course, everyone thinks they know their child and what they would or would not do. But adolescent behavior can be surprising, even to parents. It can also be dangerous, disrespectful and illegal.

Right now, Woodsfield parents have a chance to change that. We urge parents in the community to talk to their children about right and wrong and to bring this unacceptable behavior in check.

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