Monday, 18th April, 2016
By Andrew Robertson
City Council’s new general manager is asking residents to be more vigilant and parents to be more responsible following an increase in vandalism in Sturt Park.
The request comes as a resident who witnessed a recent attack by a group of children said damage to the city’s premier park was costing Council thousands of dollars and undermining an important public amenity.
The woman, who did not want to be named, also said a lack of lighting was helping the young vandals who were able to carry out their night-time raids under the cloak of darkness.
Timber table and chair settings throughout the park were popular targets, she said, along with the fencing surrounding the children’s playground off Sulphide Street.
The latest incident happened in the early hours of Sunday last week when the woman said she was woken at 2am by loud banging.
After calling the police she went out into her front yard and saw a group of at least 10 young children “scamper” off as a police vehicle “did one lap of the park” and leave.
She said one of the kids returned a short time later to retrieve the hammer that was used to “completely destroy” a timber park setting.
Council spent $65,000 installing lamps in the park about 10 years ago to combat vandalism but the woman said at least 10 of the lights were not working, leaving sections in complete darkness.
“Three weeks ago they destroyed the (seat) near the Bridge Club,” said the woman, who also suggested police should make regular patrols of the park.
Council’s General Manager, James Roncon, said he visited the park on Friday and spoke with staff there who confirmed the spike in vandalism as well as the situation with the lighting.
“I think that there’s always been pockets of vandalism that has taken place from time to time but over the last month or so they were saying it seems to have increased quite a bit,” he said.
“If there is a problem with the lighting and it’s not fit for purpose, we might try and explore some avenues through grant funding that would allow us to perhaps look at some alternative options for lighting.”
He said in at some cases the problem appeared to go beyond blown globes, and an electrician would be brought in first to assess the park’s lighting.
“I think there has been some vandalism that has been done to the actual light posts with (wiring) ripped out.
“There might be an opportunity to get some grant funding to perhaps get some solar lights in there and remove that issue.”
Mr Roncon said he also planned to “sit down with the local police and just see what we might be able to arrange in terms of patrols”.
But he added the public also could play a big role in combating the problem.
“It’s just that sort of vigilance as well from the neighbours who see or hear anything to report it and we can try and get onto it as quickly as possible.”
He also appealed to the parents of the children who “get some sense of pleasure out of destroying things”.
“If they are kids ... then taking responsibility for what your kids are doing and making sure if they are out and about that they are behaving themselves and being responsible.”
While placing a fence around the park has been suggested as one way to protect it from vandals, Mr Roncon said it would also turn it into a “fortress”.
“I just think it would be such a shame to see a big cyclone fence put around the perimeter of that park that locks people out.
“While it’s always an option, I suppose, it probably would not be one of the first options that would be considered by Council, I would have thought.”