Southington looks to deter vandals with cameras

Police-operated surveillance cameras will likely go up around the ice rink and other parts of town to prevent vandalism or theft. Officials aren’t saying where or how many cameras, only that they will be monitored live by police dispatchers and that some will be more visible than others.

Damage to public property this winter prompted the decision.

“We’d like to catch these people while they’re doing it and bring these people to justice,” said Town Manager Garry Brumback. “Our goal is to end this stuff. Prosecuting the offenders is one of the primary ways we can do that.”

Police Chief Jack Daly said some of the cameras’ effectiveness is lost if the public knows where they are.

Town government, YMCA and STEPS officials discussed ways to deter crime against public property during a meeting Tuesday night at Town Hall.

Vandals struck the rink two times in the same week last month, damaging the liner and throwing garbage and other debris onto the ice. Town officials believe the perpetrators are youths.

The thieves who cut out and removed six 300-pound metal benches from the linear trail are likely adults. In that case town and police officials believe the resale value of the benches was the motive. Two benches have been recovered.

Dawn Miceli, a Democratic town councilor, called for a campaign to encourage vigilance among residents and to remind residents of the penalties for vandalism or theft of town property.

She said Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success could lead in “letting our youth know this isn’t acceptable.”

Youth and adult representatives from STEPS attended the meeting. YMCA Executive Director John Myers, Democratic state Rep. David Zoni and three police department officials also attended.

Police Captain Lowell DePalma said officers are investigating the vandalism and thefts but declined to say how close the department has come to making arrests. He said businesses in the downtown had been eager to help the investigation.

“We’re trying to make connections. We try to make connections with everybody,” DePalma said.

In addition to police efforts, ideas such as better lighting along the trail and rink, a neighborhood watch system and opportunities for youth to do public art were discussed.

According to police records, vandalism has increased in recent years.

“Over the past three years we’ve seen an increase. A slight increase, but still an increase,” Daly said. “We do take this seriously.”

The penalty for vandalism or theft of public property depends on the value of the items damaged or stolen. In the case of a bench, Daly said it would likely be a misdemeanor charge.

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