Vandalism, speeding top list of concerns for neighborhood watch

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Mon., Aug. 26, 2013
Jewett City's Resident State Troopers Mark Boulanger and Jason McCarthy listen to residents' concerns at a neighborhood watch meeting. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Jewett City's Resident State Troopers Mark Boulanger and Jason McCarthy listen to residents' concerns at a neighborhood watch meeting. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Some end-of-the-summer vandalism at two town playgrounds has highlighted the importance of a newly-established neighborhood watch in the borough. Vandals removed hardware from connecting bolts in swings at both the Little League playground and the Griswold Middle School playground, said Resident State Trooper Mark Boulanger. In addition, they removed connecting bolts from stairs to the Little League playscape and bent the metal steps, probably by jumping on them.

Griswold Recreation Director Ryan Aubin said he learned about the vandalism to the steps last week from a parent on the playground. When he inspected the other equipment more closely, he spotted the missing hardware on the swings. “If you weren’t looking at it, you could sit in it and fall straight down,” he said. “A kid could get hurt.”

Public Works staffers straightened the steps and reattached the bolts on Friday, Aubin said, but by Monday “they [vandals] took them back out, and it was even worse.”

Matt Wardell, of Jewett City, and his son Logan, 8, were doing some fielding practice at the Little League field Monday. Wardell described the vandalism as “terrible."

"I don’t know why people would do that," said Wardell. "It’s just stupid.”

Aubin said that the vandalism has been taking place in the late-night hours, in areas that are only reachable by foot. “It’s out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “None of this is done in the open.” He attributed the problem to teenagers whose parents “obviously aren’t in the picture and aren’t doing anything to stop this. They make excuses… They still need to be parents.”

About 15 borough residents attended an Aug. 19 neighborhood watch meeting and expressed their concerns about vandalism and speeding in their neighborhoods. Michael and Tarny Dubois of Brown Avenue said that they are afraid to ride bikes with their son, Tristan, 7, because of the speeders. They have been in touch with resident troopers Boulanger and Jason McCarthy about the problem, and as a result, a speed monitor was installed in their neighborhood. But the problem persists, especially at night when the device is turned off, they said.

Tarny said she makes it a point to talk to the teens who roam her neighborhood. Making those connections, she said, makes it easier to talk to them later about problems like speeding without a confrontation. “I’m a mom,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether I’m a mom to [these kids] or not. I don’t want to see any kid get hurt.”

The two troopers, along with Borough Warden Al Geer, encouraged residents at the meeting to talk with their neighbors and urge them to get involved. “I know it’s a pain in the neck to get up from the dinner table,” said Geer. “But we need more good eyes. The bad eyes – everybody knows where they are.”

Boulanger added that real-life police work is different from what is depicted on television. “Crimes are not always solved in the first hour. We don’t have FBI profilers we can call. We don’t have instant DNA testing,” he said. Even so, he added, the accumulated information from several neighbors can bring to light patterns of crime that can lead to solutions. “The more people you get here, the better,” he said. “When you go back home tonight, talk to two or three more people. This is only going to benefit everyone.”

Geer even suggested that watch participants keep a small pad and pen handy to jot down particulars of suspicious activity: the date, time, and any descriptions of persons or cars involved. “That way we know if it’s occurring steadily and at a similar time,” he said.
Boulanger encouraged residents who see suspicious activity to call the Montville state troopers’ barracks at 860-848-6500. He said that rather than ask to speak to the resident trooper, callers should simply report what they have seen to the trooper on duty. “Then they can get somebody dispatched out there right away,” he said.

Nobody should be afraid to call to report a problem, said McCarthy. “This is your community. You should have pride in it,” he said. “It’s only 1 square mile.”

The next neighborhood watch meeting is slated for Thursday, Sept. 4, at 6:30 p.m. in the Griswold Senior Center. All Jewett City and Griswold residents are welcome to attend.

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