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Monday, December 14, 2009

Stop the Senseless Crimes

 The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. They were perhaps best known for their sack of Rome in 455. Though not much more destructive than other groups of the time, the Vandals were noted for their particular disregard for ancient Rome, especially in respect to the value of aesthetic appeal in Roman culture and their destruction of Roman objects held in high regard by later European cultures.Thus, their name was associated with vandalism, a term meaning "senseless destruction."

Today, vandalism is still the term applied to such ignorant and destructive criminal activity. In 2000, it is estimated that 6.1 million households in the United States were vandalized, most unreported (Crime and Victimization in America Statistical Overview, The Center for Victims of Crime, 2002) Apprehending vandals is often difficult, and the costs of repairing the damage are passed on to taxpayers, private property owners, and insurance companies. Some states hold parents financially responsible for vandalism committed by their minor children, up to specified limits.

Vandalism includes behavior such as breaking windows, slashing tires, spray painting a wall with graffiti, and destroying a computer system through the use of a computer virus. Vandalism is a malicious act and may be personally ill-willed, although the perpetrators need not know their victim to commit the crime. "The recklessness of the act imputes both intent and malice." (

The crime of vandalism is typically committed by juveniles. In 2002, vandalism accounted for 43% of all juvenile arrests. (Crime In the United States, 2002) These arrests are more likely to be committed by groups of juveniles. About half of the cases referred to juvenile court were handled informally or without charges, and most of the informally processed cases were dismissed. (Office of Juvinile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2004) And, disturbingly, female proportions of juvenile arrests for vandalism have been increasing.

Senseless destruction of another's property -- I have never understood the reason behind such action. When someone vandalizes people's property, the owners feel rage and resentment against the mindless act. The sense of loss finds no solace in rational thought. In fact, total violation of goodness and trust leaves the victims in shock.

 Why Vandalize?

I decided to explore some of the reasons for committing vandalism.  Here are some common answers for a disturbing question: "Why do people vandalize?"

1. Vandalism is a way "to go against the grain" of society, a "middle finger" to the establishment. Such actions are considered acts of "noble purpose" by misguided people.

2. Vandalism is a way for someone to "say that they have been to a place," either by using names and signs within the acts of vandalism or by bragging about their daring destruction. Peer pressure undoubtedly adds to any dare of committing the acts.

3. Vandalism is an outward expression of twisted feelings when the natural warmth of human feeling has been turned into resentment due to constant lack of affection and understanding in an "unfriendly world." Put simple, it is a violent cry of attention from those unloved.

4. Vandalism is a way for some insecure people to acquire the attention and the respect of gangs and others who revel in the criminal element. One vandal says vandalism is "a guarantee that chicks will be coming at you from all directions." Such is a poor indication of values upheld by the criminal element.

5. Vandalism brings "style and substance to everything" within a warped sense of artistic expression by the personalized "annoying" nature of graffiti. These people my consider this graffiti an expression of their First Amendment right of freedom of speech in association with the freedoms of association and assembly.

6. Vandalism is a common symptom of binge drinking, a means of seeking money by theft to buy drugs, or an outward sign of inner hostility.

7. Vandalism often occurs when unhappy people simply feel "bored."

Vandalism Strikes A Community's Holiday Spirit

The Christmas season has been the setting for some particularly disturbing vandalism of the Winter Wonderland of Lights in Ashland, Kentucky's Central Park. The vandals' repeated attacks reported by Carrie Stambaugh in the Ashland Daily Independent (December 1 and December 13, 2009) have cause thousands of dollars in damages to several city seasonal light displays. 

Light displays have been targeted by vandals in several different incidents since they were erected in late October and in past years, but Saturday’s damage was by far the worst incident in Winter Wonderland history. Committee co-chairman Marion Russell said this year the vandalism began on Halloween night while workers were just beginning to put up the light displays. 

Since then, numerous separate attacks have been made.“Before it was bulbs and they turned a couple of things over. Now it’s escalated to four displays. It’s the first hard destructive damage,” Russell said. He estimates the cost of the vandalism to be $8,000 to $10,000 in damage.

Winter Wonderland of Lights is paid through the Ashland Alliance in part by donations from businesses and individuals.
Ashland police have taken measures to apprehend the vandals, but they are asking the public to keep an eye out as well and to immediately report any suspicious activity around the displays by dialing 911. Ashland Police Major Todd Kelley said the department had already stepped up patrols in the area and was discussing what else could be done to thwart any future attacks. Also, a reward is being offered for information leading to the apprehension of the criminals.

Major Kelley said the department would investigate the acts and those responsible would be prosecuted to the fullest extent, if caught. The vandals are looking at felony charges, he said. 

Marion Russell, chairman of Winter Wonderland of Lights, said the winter wonderland committee is also considering adding some additional security measures next year, including possible cameras and motion detectors in the park.

"Merry Christmas, bah, humbug" to the vandals, whoever they may be, and here's hoping they enjoy their Christmas dinner in a confined space contemplating a huge bill for their destruction while spending some needed jail time for reflection of their wrongdoing. Good luck, Ashland. We admire your considerable efforts to beautify your city during the holidays and we hope justice prevails. Vandals, you may have sacked Rome in 455, but Ashland will teach you the value of respecting property in 2009.

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