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Editorial by Susan Call

Vandalism's badWith the elections finally concluded (or, at least almost as of this writing) it is time to turn our attention to other pressing matters. The recent incidents of malicious mischief —or is it more properly called vandalism?—that have occurred here in Civano demand our immediate attention.

Some folks may remember when someone deliberately broke off the low street lights that lined Nightbloom Way, leaving nearly the entire street in the dark at night. Those lights were replaced with a different kind of light, thanks to a group of our neighbors and residents, at great savings to the homeowners. But just recently more lights were ripped out along Civano Boulevard fromRust Lane to Drexel. Some of the lights along the interior paths have been destroyed as well.

A year or so ago, other incidents of mischief occurred that may have been less costly to the neighborhood, but which caused varying degrees of expense, plus worry, to several residents. Someone shut off the main power switch to individual houses, plunging the entire residence into darkness. More importantly, without power, for those homeowners unfortunate enough to be out of town at the time, the lack of electricity caused spoilage of food in refrigerators and freezers, plus a great deal of mess and bother.

Perhaps you can imagine the fear and distress caused if a person did happen to be at home alone and the power was cut, while other houses nearby still had lights. What if that person were an elderly resident, dependent upon power for life support?

But the most recent incidents that are happening here in Civano are directed more at the community in general. This begs the question of why someone (or some several persons) are damaging and destroying property? Are people of whatever ages totally ignorant of the cost of repairing the damage? Do we want to have a community with patrolling security cars, which we would have to pay for through increased homeowner fees?

If, as seems likely, these incidents of vandalism are being perpetrated by youth or teens, their parents will be charged for the repair and replacement of the damaged items. One of the incidents was the willful destruction of newly planted trees by the horseshoe pit and the bocce court behind the community center. The trees, by the way, had been donated by the Civano Nursery. Another incident was the wanton picking and trashing of unripe fruit from the citrus trees in the community garden.

Yes, the community garden exists for the benefit of all, but it is not meant to be haphazardly abused through selfish gleaning of its produce. Those who manage (and pay for) garden plots have the first choice in using the fruit from the trees there, then if there is a surplus, other neighbors may be invited to share the crops. And, certainly no one should simply help him- or herself to fruits and vegetables in the garden that they had no role in growing.

Of course, one of the most blatant examples of damaging community or individual property is the spraying or spattering of paint on community walls and the walls of private homes. This is vandalism of the worst sort, and punishable by the city with fines, or maybe even jail for the individuals found responsible, and their parents if those responsible are underage. Parents should be aware that they could be held liable for the cost to repair the unwanted painting. And, if one is a renter here, rather than a permanent resident, they could still be subject to paying for the vandalism, or the owner might have to pay, and then recover the cost from the tenant.

At this point, there are several conclusions to be drawn from these destructive acts of vandalism. First, it should be known that some young people have been spotted in the act of creating the mayhem, so the suspicion of the youth involvement is more than mere speculation.

If the incidents are being perpetrated by young people, it could be because they cannot find enough to do with their free time. Several years ago we had a regular teen night, with supervised activities in the rotunda. However, after the adult sponsors moved away or found other things to do with their spare time, the teen nights were dropped. Since then, no one has been found who is willing to organize and support such events. If, as seems likely, teens are responsible for the current spate of destructive acts, who might want to take on the challenge of working with them now?

If teens want sponsored activities and game nights, it will be up to them to prove worthy of the community support. That is true even if the young people here want a skateboard park, or any other type of park designed for their level of activity. It is unlikely that the HOA or the neighborhood association would be willing to spend funds for improvements when we have to make repairs and replacements of things damaged by bored young people.

In the meantime, whoever is causing the destruction needs to know that signs are being posted in the garden, advising that children must be supervised when in the garden space. Surveillance cameras will be installed, and when mischief-makers are caught on camera, they or their parents may be charged with vandalism, and made to pay for any damages.

Neighbors are being notified to keep watch, especially toward the dusk hours in the evening, and at the least to take photos with their cell phones, if any suspicious activity is noticed. The community should be mindful that the possible consequences of this sort of vandalism affect us all, and it could have a financial impact similar to that of a lawsuit.   Parents need to keep themselves informed about where their children are and what they are doing. Maybe the community should consider instituting a curfew for young people?

It is almost always true that those who most need to hear the message shared here will not be reading The Town Crier, so it is up to each of us to spread the word that further incidents of vandalism will not be tolerated. We need to talk to our neighbors about the problems, seek solutions, and stay vigilant. Most of us live here in Civano because it is an attractive and hospitable community. Let us work together to keep it so.

For another neighbor’s take, read Judyth Willis’s “Vandalism in Civano: The Retelling of an Old, Sad Story”.