The Crook County Parks and Recreation District faces new incidents on an almost daily basis

by: JASON CHANEY - One recent incident of vandalism includes the carving of large initials into a tree at Ochoco Creek Park

“For a little community, we actually receive a lot of vandalism out in the parks.”

This is the conclusion reached by Duane Garner, the Maintenance Supervisor for the Crook County Parks and Recreation District.

He has noticed an ongoing increase in the defacing or destruction of park property that has reached the point where they encounter new cases on an almost daily basis.

“We get paint or Sharpie pen on the picnic tables and electrical panels,” Garner said. “The kids will jump on the picnic tables, right in the center of the boards — they will deliberately break them in half.”

On a weekly basis, one of the parks’ public restrooms is vandalized in some fashion. Toilet paper dispensers are kicked off of the walls, or people will “deliberately not use the toilets, going all over the place.”

Although all of the local parks have been targeted, Garner said that the covered portion of Ochoco Creek Park and the tennis courts and skate park across the street have faced the most damage.

The most recent offenses include the destruction of 50 sprinkler heads, graffiti on the Juniper Street bridge, and the carving of large initials into a tree.

The damage is costing the district about 25 hours in labor per week to repair and clean up, and at this point, they struggle to curtail the problem. They have taken advantage of grants to purchase and install cameras in select locations, but Garner said they can only help so much.

“Cameras are a little difficult because you have to get just the right angle at the right time,” he said. “You have to get a close enough image to really see who it is.”

In addition, the recession has left local law enforcement with limited resources to help combat the issue.

“They are great to work with and they do a good job, but we don’t have the funding in this community to have officers patrolling the parks frequently enough,” Garner lamented.

Prineville Police Captain Michael Boyd agreed, but noted that the police department is doing the best they can with the manpower they have.

“We travel through the (Ochoco Creek) Park a lot,” he said. “We drive the trails, walk, that sort of thing. It’s just that we have limited resources, and that’s a pretty big park and kids have a lot of energy to destroy stuff.”

To improve enforcement efforts, Boyd said that the police department is working on ways to install more cameras in the park while seeking out other technology to “be our eyes and ears out there.”

Meanwhile, the most effective vandalism deterrent may be the vigilance of concerned residents.

“Where we have a lot of visibility from good citizens, that is where we have the least amount of vandalism,” Garner said.

Consequently, he and Boyd both encourage people to report any vandalism they encounter.

“There are so many people who don’t want to bother the police with phone calls,” Garner said, “but that is really what it is going to take.”

Boyd concurred, noting that when they have witnesses, they have a better chance of identifying the offender and holding them accountable for their actions.

“We don’t ask them to confront anybody,” he said. “Just let us know.”

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