Vandalism an annoying problem in Pierre

Vandals damaged the door to a vault toilet located near the Lewis and Clark trailhead in southeast Pierre. Replacement of the damaged door comes at a cost of $1,000 to city taxpayers.

Vandalism is certainly an annoying problem that concerns Pierre city leaders.

“Vandalism is such a senseless act,” said Chris Classen with the Pierre Parks Department. Classen serves as the city carpenter. As a member of the Parks Department, he also helps clean up the messes vandals leave behind. “We see spray paint, destruction of property, and people seem to think it’s great fun to make a mess of our public restrooms. “I’d much rather spend my time moving the community park system forward than cleaning up after some delinquent.”

Classen, as well as the rest of the Parks staff, cleans up dozens of instances of vandalism each year. For them, it means time away from removing diseased trees, planting new trees, grooming athletic fields, and installing park equipment.

For vandals, it could mean a fine and prison time. “There are seven separate categories of vandalism with varying degrees of severity based upon the cost associated with the damage done,” Police Department Capt. Bryan Walz said.

If the damage caused is less than $400, a vandal could face a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail. If that damage escalates to more than $1,000, a vandal is looking at a felony charge that could lead to a several thousand dollar fine and time in the state penitentiary.

“We know the parks department has to clean up the mess, the vandal may face charges, but the real loser on a deal like this is the public,” City Parks and Recreation Director Tom Farnsworth said. “When destruction happens to public property, it’s citizen tax dollars that pay to fix the damage and prosecute the offender.”

Citywide, on both public and private property, more than 170 cases of vandalism were reported to the Pierre Police Department last year. Walz admits that most cases of vandalism are minor, but a case in the not so distant past resulted in felony charges.

“Just last year, we had a young person who went on a vandalism spree, spray painting public, commercial, and school property. Those actions resulted in a Class 6 Felony charge,” Walz said. That case was solved with help from the public. “During our investigative work we received a tip, and that tip was enough to get us on the path to prosecution,” Walz added. “It’s a small town; someone’s always watching.”

Walz added that if someone happens to witness vandalism, he or she should call the Pierre Police Department’s Crime Tips Line at 605-773-7420. Information can be reported anonymously.

“There’s no shame in wanting a beautiful community,” Farnsworth said. “We need the public’s help to keep it beautiful. Please report vandalism.”

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