News, Police

Cases of local vandalism call town security cameras into question

By Geoff Fox

Vandalism of picnic tables and Civil War kiosks have caught the ire of former Mayor Dan Murphy, raising concern about the town’s security cameras around town.

Murphy spoke during citizens’ comments at the July meeting about the town’ s museum from the second floor of Town Hall back to the basement before he put on his Rotary hat and told town officials about a picnic table in Widmeyer Park.

Rotary had recently donated handicapped accessible picnic tables at all the Hancock parks as one of their projects.

Murphy said he was made aware of a table that had been “severely vandalized” in the Lions Pavilion.

After checking out the picnic table, Murphy said the town’s Public Works crew had already “made a world of difference” in bringing the table back.

Murphy’ s leading question, he said, would be, “Who did it?”

“My point is, you should be able to tell me because there should be cameras in that area,” Murphy said.

There are town cameras in Widmeyer Park near the Lions Pavilion, which should give the police an idea who did it.

A few months prior, Murphy also asked town officials and police who vandalized the kiosks in the Civil War Heritage Park on Main Street as there are cameras there as well.

Police said someone had broken one of the kiosks.

Murphy said he was told the cameras were not pointed in the direction of the kiosks at the time the vandalism took place.

“My question is, ‘Do we have cameras that are working and if not, why?” Murphy said.

He pointed out the cameras the town had placed in various spots around town, which were placed under his administration, had been a deterrent to crime in town.

“It’s been proven,” he said.

Murphy admitted the company the town used for the cameras was “no good” and had stagnated.

“We put an end to vandalism because people knew they were on camera,” Murphy said. “Now they’re going to know what they can get away with.”

Mayor Tim Smith said the bandstand in Widmeyer Park was also vandalized, noting kids will be kids and use pen, but this had been done with paint.

The bandstand had been donated to the town as well.

Smith also asked about pulling the cameras at the pavilion in the park, however they were not working as well.

“Why aren’ t the damn cameras working when we need them?” Smith asked bluntly.

Smith said families are renting these pavilions and bandstand all the time and shouldn’t see some of the things written on them.

“I don’t want to be blunt about this, but it has to be something because I’ m not going to tolerate these, what I call hoodlums, destroying everything,” Smith said.

He added if the cameras aren’t working, it tells him the company the town has isn’t doing their job.

“Is there no monitoring system to know when these cameras are working, when they’re not working?” Smith said.

He wants all the town cameras to be working and knows there have been requests to add more cameras to Town Hall.

“If we put the cameras in, is it going to do us any good if they’ re not working?” Smith asked.

Murphy told town officials how good the cameras were at one time, telling the story of how then-Police Chief T.J. Buskirk caught two people drinking beer in the park and was able to tell them the brand they were drinking because he could read the cans just by zooming in on the image.

He also told of Buskirk catching vandals in Joseph Hancock Park and was able to meet them at home as they got off the school bus and took care of the problem right then.

“It can be done, I’ve seen it happen,” Murphy said. “When you have minimal number of people on your police force, you need all the eyes you can use.”

Murphy said they still don’ t know who damaged the kiosks in the Civil War Heritage Park and it’s been at least two months.

Smith agreed, saying it’ s every week there’ s cleaning done in the Widmeyer Park bathrooms and no more than an hour later, the soap dispensers are ripped off the wall and toilet paper dispenser off the wall.

“I know that people say our kids don’t have anything to do, but I can find something better to do than ripping the toilet paper holder off the wall or soap dispenser,” Smith said.

Murphy encouraged the town to get the new town manager, Mike Faith, and the police department to get the cameras working as it’s a big part of their role.

“At some point, it gets to be there’ s no excuse not to know who damaged that picnic table out there,” Murphy said.

Sgt. Rich Miller of the Hancock Police told The Hancock News on Monday that out of 13 cameras, only one is down right now. Miller did not disclose where that camera is located.

He said the power company had noticed the camera was not hooked up correctly when they were doing upgrades for Harvest.

The vendor for the cameras has not been able to repair that camera and the police and town are currently working with the vendor to get that camera back up and running.

Miller said he has addressed issues with town officials and they are currently investigating new cameras with better upgrades.

As for vandalism, Miller doesn’t think there has been a rise and it’s been about the same as before.

The cameras in town did help with solving a vandalism case this past holiday season.

One of the parking meters in town had been decorated with bells and someone decided to mess with the bells.

Miller said because of the cameras, the person who caused the vandalism was caught.