Nipping vandalism in bud is needful

We’re happy that city officials are taking steps to deal with graffiti and vandalism in Sankey Park.

In today’s edition (page 12) we report the arrests of two youths who allegedly kicked out boards on the bridge. The city has also painted over offensive, irritating graffiti that has been popping up in the park in recent months.

These problems are, of course, symptomatic of deeper issues, since young teens who are gainfully occupied in school, sports, work or other healthy activities aren’t hanging out at the park, breaking things and leaving a mess.

But some kids are choosing this path and the best time to deal with that is sooner, rather than later.

Anyone who has had experience with vandalism knows that it has a contagious quality. If one window is broken, soon there will be more. Graffiti, in particular, needs a swift, decisive response to keep it from spreading. Part of the thrill is seeing how long it stays up, so the quickest way to squash the aspirations of budding graffiti artists is to get the wipe their work away..

Some communities have come up with the sensible solution of having busted perpetrators clean up the damage caused by theirs or others’ vandalism activities. We like that idea. Sure, the city would have to be cautious about what methods it could allow youngsters to use to repair damage, but elbow grease will go quite far and might make an impression, particularly if a judge makes it clear that repeat offenses will be dealt with even less enjoyable ways.

One of the biggest contributors to vandalism, the literature out there tells us, is civic inaction. Sankey is one of the nicest parks, if not the nicest, in Sweet Home and Weddle Bridge has become a landmark. It doesn’t look good with iron gates prohibiting people from crossing it, but until a solution can be found to keep ill-willed folks from destroying it, it will have to stay that way.

One proven key to thwarting vandalism, whether it be graffiti or otherwise, is aggressive public response, not just from city officials, but from citizens. If you see something untoward happening, call the cops. They can’t be everywhere and they can’t know everything that’s happening in town, so it’s up to us to call police when we see suspicious or illegal behavior.

Stopping vandalism really does have to start with us.

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Speaking of healthy activities, we commend the School Board for giving a nod to the idea of trying to give our local youngsters more opportunity to get off their fannies and exercise. The board, as we report beginning on page 1, is supporting the idea of holding a multi-school track meet in the spring that would give hundreds of local children an opportunity to learn skills, get some fresh air, and then enjoy some competition.

We like the idea of a track meet simply because this particular sport includes a variety of activities that nearly any child can participate in – running, jumping and throwing. You compete against other kids, but mostly you compete against yourself. If you run faster or throw farther than you did last time, you’ve won. It’s healthy and it teaches good life lessons.

We hope the teachers, even those not inclined toward running, jumping, etc., support this idea in the classroom and encourage their students to take it seriously. The track is a lot better place to be for a potential wayward youngster than kicking holes in Weddle Bridge.