By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
Fulton police are hunting for a vandal or group of vandals responsible for defacing the children’s playground equipment in the new downtown Playgarden Park.
The city of Fulton is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of these suspects.
According to Paul Walker, sections of the children’s playground equipment were recently marred with profane statements and illustrations.
“They spraypainted several obscene words and quotes on the children’s playground equipment,” Walker said. “We did get it all cleaned up, but we want to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.”
Walker said this is the first time such vandalism has occurred since construction of the park was completed and opened to the public in August.
“We were expecting it, but it happened a little quicker than I thought,” Walker said, adding that, regardless of expectations, it’s still disappointing that people have defaced public property.
“This is such a nice park,” he said. “Nicer than what most folks have in the entire state of Mississippi, especially for the size of our community. Ninety-nine percent of our people are treating this equipment the way it’s supposed to be treated and taken care of, but you still have that small percentage of idiots who aren’t thinking about what they’re doing or the damage it causes.”
According to Brad Rogers of the Fulton Police Department, the vandals used Sharpie permanent markers to scribble on several pieces of park equipment. Although police are unsure precisely what time of day the defacement occurred, it is suspected that it was late at night.
Depending on the severity of the damage to the equipment, the vandals face one of several charges. If the damage is less than $500, they can be charged with malicious mischief, a misdemeanor charge that carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Property damage of more than $500 carries a felony charge, meaning the suspects could face a total of five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.
If those charged with the crime happen to be juveniles, Rogers said their sentence will be determined by the county’s youth court system.
Rogers said police have increased the frequency of patrols through and around the area of the park to discourage any further mischief.
“We’ve been doing walkthroughs and checking it on a regular basis,” Rogers said. We’re keeping a real close eye on the park.”
The mayor wanted to encourage Fulton’s citizens to take an active approach to preventing future damage to the park equipment or artwork.
“I would just urge people to report any suspicious activity that they happen to see,” Walker said. “If people are out there late and it looks like they’re destroying public property, don’t hesitate to contact the city of Fulton police department.”
He added if anyone had any information about the individual or group of individuals who caused the damage in November, to please contact either city hall or the Fulton police department.
“If anyone has any information about this, please contact us,” Walker said. “There will be a $1,000 reward upon the arrest of these individuals.
“We’re hoping to apprehend these folks in the near future and we will definitely make an example out of them,” he added.