The restroom building at Memorial Park was patched up after some alleged vandals punched holes in the drywall last week. The Hamilton Fire Department will be inspecting the fire extinquishers beside the damaged wall. – Julia Lovett/Metroland
A number of vandalism incidents have taken place in Waterdown in the last couple of weeks involving the public washrooms at Memorial Park and the Pho Nam Thanh Restaurant on Dundas Street East. As well, drug paraphernalia has been found behind Mary Hopkins Public School.
“It is just senseless … we have people who donate a million dollars and build these beautiful facilities and then we have these kids that come in and just do the damage,” said Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge, referring to the Memorial Park washrooms.
“Where are their parents?”
Partridge explained that the building had holes and tire scuffs on the walls, toilets were not flushed, racial slurs were written in the plaster and the sinks were pulled away from the wall.
“I was there yesterday (Sun., July 23), and I would say there was probably about 10 young people in there and three of them had little scooters and you can see the scooter marks up the wall,” she said of last week’s visit.
According to Randy Roubos, facility supervisor with the City of Hamilton, the vandalism is indicative of not having enough manpower to cover all of the areas in the city or provide security around the building.
“What happens is, the Parks people open it in the morning and then they close it at night. I am in the process of putting in a security system,” he said, noting there is a refrigeration plant on the site that also needs to be guarded.
“I don’t know how to prevent any more vandalism from happening other than I’m hoping the public — you know, we have so many washrooms out there that are open and you just hope the kids don’t vandalize them.”
Partridge added that it is up to everyone who lives in the area and uses the park to look after the building where the washrooms are located.
Police have been notified of the vandalism incidents and, according to Hamilton police department Acting Sgt. Peter Hall who covers Flamborough, Dundas and Waterdown as the crime manager, they have also received information from concerned residents.
“They’ve sent us photos and possible suspects of people who hang out in the area they think might be involved,” he said.
Officers have gone through their databases, spoken to beat officers and spoken with people who live near the area, but they are only just past the initial stages of the investigation.
“We’ve had several people come and talk to the police who have attended the area, we have spoken to several people who might be involved or might be witnesses and we’re working on those leads right now,” Hall added.
Meanwhile, Pho Nam Thanh, a restaurant in the Walmart plaza at Clappison’s Corners, had been vandalized with graffiti spray-painted on the front doors last week. According to Hall, that incident was reported once again by an active community member and not through traditional means.
“It’s very visually intrusive on the community,” he said of the graffiti, which has since been cleaned up. Hall asks that when people see problems in the area, they report them in a timely manner.
“If we get to it right away, it’s fresh in the officer’s mind and we actually gain suspects that way,” he said, noting that Hamilton Crime Stoppers is also available for those who with to make anonymous tips.
“It’s reprehensible for anyone to do that to one of our local businesses. You know, these people live in our community, they’ve invested and they work 24/7 on that business and it turns my stomach to think that they’re being treated this way,” said Partridge of the restaurant’s vandalism.
She said the day following the incident she visited Pho Nam Thanh and spoke with the owners while providing cleaning materials, even though the graffiti had already been cleaned up.
“They’re both very, very upset about the whole incident and they’re scared,” she said.
Partridge echoed Hall in encouraging people to contact the police to report acts of vandalism. She argued that if the incidents go unreported, then the police won’t be able to help.
“If they know that that has happened, then at least they can go talk to the owners and they can get a record of it,” she said.
Residents have also found drug paraphernalia behind Mary Hopkins Public School in recent weeks. Hall explained that it is a priority patrol area and they have found homemade bongs, pipes and Jell-O shot needles that are also used for hash or shatter (a concentrate of THC that looks like toffee).
“What we’re seeing is typical youth type — because it’s very well hidden back there — youth type marijuana smoking,” he said.
According to Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustee Penny Deathe, the issue that will be taken up when the board comes back in September.
“We do have outside lighting on our schools, we don’t have cameras as yet but we can look at, like I said, at different ways of perhaps deterring it,” she said.
Hall contends that while it seems there is a spike in vandalism in recent weeks, there aren’t as many incidents as people think, but thanks to social media, they are flooding the community groups and Facebook feeds, giving them the appearance of a rash of delinquent behaviour.
“With the connection to the internet to everybody, people talk about it more.
“You know, it’s always happened since I started as a police officer. Summers, parks, kids. It’s been there forever, smoking weed, doing that type of thing, causing petty vandalism, but now we’re talking about it more on social media and then in Waterdown specifically, the town is just expanding,” he said, noting that an open dialogue between parents and their children is important.
While the acting sergeant said that social media could be a good tool to use to get the crimes on people’s radar, the police ask victims or witnesses to report any incidents either directly to the local detachment or to Crime Stoppers, which both have online options.
“We can’t monitor every chat online and if we’re not being told and this being the case that’s going on, on social media. We have a bunch of citizen detectives out there working on it, but they don’t have the resources we have, they don’t have the database we have, they don’t have the powers that we have and as much as they’re very good intentioned, sometimes it becomes a bit of a vigilante justice out there and the wrong people can be accused.”
To report vandalism or other incidents, visit: hamiltonpolice.on.ca/prevention/graffiti, or crimestoppershamilton.com.