By Lisa Capobianco
Southington officials joined forces with members of the STEPS Youth Council last week to brainstorm ideas on how to combat vandalism and theft after various incidents occurred in town.
During an open community forum, Town Councilor Dawn Miceli, Town Manager Garry Brumback and Police Chief John Daly, along with YMCA Executive Director John Myers, STEPS Coordinator Kelly Leppard and members of the Youth Council explored different ways to handle vandalism and theft in Southington. State Representative Dave Zoni also joined the discussion.
Miceli decided to organize the forum after various incidents occurred in town, including the ice rink which was vandalized twice and the stealing of benches along the Rails to Trails as well as one on the Plantsville green. When vandals hit the ice rink, they ripped off Styrofoam covers and parts of panels, throwing trashcans and sandbags out onto the ice. Miceli said the estimated cost of the damage was $400.
“I think it’s important to start the conversation about the vandalism—it seems like we’ve seen a rise over the past few months,” Miceli said during the forum, adding that the Southington Drive-In also experienced vandalism during the summer months.
“To have a handful of folks either deface or destroy or otherwise steal these kinds of things is probably a low a crime as you can get that doesn’t directly involve children,” added Brumback.
Chief Daly reported that an increase in these crimes has occurred in town.
“Over the past three years, we’ve seen a slight increase,” Daly said. “We are taking the issue very seriously.”
During the forum, Brumback gave an overview of different ideas that the town will look into, including a tips line and installing cameras. He said police have stepped up to monitor the facilities, and the town will also consider partnering with the business community to place cameras in a strategic location to better monitor the targeted locations.
“These cameras will be hooked up so that they will feed straight back to the police department—we’d like to catch these people while they’re doing it, and bring them to justice as quickly as possible,” Brumback said.
During the discussion, Myers recommended the possibility of lighting the trail at night.
He said after vandalism incidents took place at YMCA’s Camp Sloper, installing these lights decreased the number of such incidents. Miceli agreed with Myers, bringing up the possibility of allowing local civic groups to adopt a portion of the liner trail to patrol the area for suspicious activity.
“Once we lit up Sloper…we’ve had a lot less vandalism,” said Myers, adding that the town should encourage more activity on the trail to lessen the chances of vandals roaming around.
Besides lighting and installing cameras, creating a media campaign to inform the pubic also served as another strategy to combat the issues of vandalism and theft.
“People are really talking about the benches being stolen from the trail—people are upset about that, people use that trail,” said Youth Services Director Susan Saucier, adding that the campaign could include posters, advertisements and a slogan. “I think getting people who use that trail to be involved and being more vigilant about seeing things and spotting things is easy.”
Miceli agreed with the idea of the media campaign, adding that she could envision members of the STEPS Youth Council turning it into a video to be viewed throughout the community.
Representative Zoni also liked the idea of the campaign.
“Part of the campaign should say that Southington is going to take a zero tolerance position on vandalism and the theft of town property,” Zoni said.