9OYS Crime Watch
Vandals target playgrounds
Kids can't play, government can't pay
Reporter: Craig Smith
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's enough to bring kids -- and taxpayers -- to tears: playgrounds vandalized and burned, with governments hard-pressed to find enough tax dollars to fix them.
It's hard to have a day in the park anymore without a reminder of how heartless people can be.
Some vandalism is a grim fact of life in the parks, but severe damage is becoming more common. Vandals are burning playground equipment and damaging it so severely that it can't be used.
In Tucson's Lakeside Park, we found kids from River of Life School playing on Tucson Parks equipment that the small school can't afford.
Parent Ygnacio Herman told 9 On Your Side: "So when they're burning down facilities, damaging them, however they do. Overall not only does it hurt us -- it does hurt us greatly -- but it hurts the community quite a bit."
A modern playground can be surprisingly expensive. A lot of the costs come from modern safety engineering. Special soft surfaces around the equipment are pricey -- it can cost between $15 to $20 per square foot.
"This is something that puzzles me to no end," said Tucson Council Member Shirley Scott. "It's atrocious."
Scott said she can't understand how someone can be sinister enough to destroy a source of innocent fun for kids, parents and grandparents. She has seen six sets of playground equipment destroyed in her ward alone.
Scott said each will cost about $100,000 to replace. Add another $55,000 to each if you want the kids to have shade.
George Kuck, Pima County Parks Operations Maintenance Manager, said Pima parks suffered more than $100,000 in damage from July 2011 to June 2012.
Scott said that she figures someone knows who's been committing these crimes and hopes they'll finally tip off police.
Nine On Your Side asked her: "If I could stand one of these vandals in front of you right now, what do you think you'd say?"
"I'd say, you have got to stop and there will be consequences for those who are doing this," Scott said. "Either pay a fine (or) perhaps there's jail time. Get serious. Find something productive to do."
No one is suggesting any one person or group is responsible for the playground damage.
Scott said police do patrol playground locations, but other priorities keep them from checking as often as they'd like. Moreover, she said security cameras often get vandalized or stolen.
Anyone with information or tips about the individuals responsible for these acts of vandalism should call 911 or 88-CRIME.