The Seymour Parks and Recreation Department is seeing an increase in vandalism at city parks, especially to public restrooms.
Parks workers typically have to deal with covering up graffiti on stalls, picnic tables and playground equipment or fixing stopped-up toilets after someone stuffs them with toilet paper. But lately, the destruction has been worse, parks director Bob Tabeling said.
Most of the damage is to restrooms at Shields Park.
During its monthly meeting Aug. 13, the parks board discussed the monthly incident report.
On July 4, someone tore the women’s restroom door off of its hinges, resulting in $500 worth of damage. Then July 11, someone destroyed a toilet paper dispenser and damaged a sink in the men’s restroom, costing the department $150 to fix.
Another incident occurred July 24 when someone tore the brace off of a stall in the men’s restroom and stole a soap dispenser from the women’s restroom. The only costs incurred by the city for that incident were for labor.
On Aug. 4, there was graffiti found in the men’s restroom, resulting in $45 in materials and labor to fix.
There were two incidents in June reported, including a destroyed door hinge in the men’s restroom and spray paint on the shelter house floor, and an incident in May that resulted in damage to a bathroom stall door.
A couple of minor issues to restrooms were reported in August, including stopped-up toilets at Kessler Park and a kicked-in door in the women’s restroom at Kasting Park.
Although there are security cameras in the parks and outside the restrooms, video footage doesn’t show who actually committed the vandalism because the cameras don’t go inside the restrooms.
“We do see people walking in and out,” Tabeling said.
Tabeling said one way they are trying to curb vandalism is by making sure the parks are well-lit.
Most of the incidents occur during the night, he said.
Board member Matt Levine questioned whether the bathrooms should be locked earlier to curb some of the issues.
Tabeling said it might help to take such action and have employees lock the restrooms before leaving work, especially at Shields Park.
Board member Zabrina Nicholson said she would hate for the bathrooms to be closed earlier to families that aren’t causing the issue.
Tabeling said the department is looking into an automated locking system for the restrooms instead of having police officers go around and lock them up at night or having a parks employee do it after work hours. But there is concern that someone might damage those locks, too.
“Our plan is to install a set of automatic locks before the end of the month at Freeman Field Park for a test,” Tabeling said.
The board is expected to discuss the issue further and make a decision on whether to close restrooms earlier at its Sept. 10 meeting.