Spray painted cannon in Tecumseh Park yet another ‘senseless’ crime in CK

A replica cannon in Tecumseh Park was painted by vandals on Monday. Photo by Michael Hugall)

Vandalism across Chatham-Kent continues to be a nuisance for municipal officials and local police.

On Monday, municipal officials were notified that a cannon, which sits proudly in Tecumseh Park, had been defaced yet again. However, instead of tagging crude slogans on the replica cannon, the perpetrators painted half of it white.

To some, the simple fix of buying black paint and amending the problem is the end of the incident. For the municipality, however, it means losing out on funds that could be dedicated toward other projects or organizations. A gallon of paint will cost Chatham-Kent $30 to purchase, but it means a loss of resources earmarked for other things.

“It impacts our operational bottom line because we have to absorb the cost to repair these things,” said Jeff Bray, the manager of parks and open spaces for Chatham-Kent. “The gallon of black paint, sure it’s only $30, but expand that across the municipality to the parks and facilities that are constantly vandalized.”

When residents deface property, it is not only taking money away from the municipal budget, it also takes city workers away from their everyday jobs.

“What [vandalism] does is it impacts our staff’s ability to focus on their normal day-to-day operational tasks,” he said. “Grooming ball fields, making sure everything is neat and tidy, removing garbage… and other parks amenities.”

Vandalism is not just defacing a statue or tagging a building, it can be more costly, said Bray. In 2019, one instance of vandalism cost the municipality thousands of dollars.

“We had a theft of wire along the promenade along the river… in July,” said Bray. “It cost us over $5,000 and the contractor estimated it was probably only about $30 [worth of wire].”

The graffiti on the cannon in Tecumseh Park was the second “senseless” incident of vandalism in the municipality in the past two weeks. The other happened at the Craford Cemetery in Raleigh Township when a bronze-bust was taken off of its gravestone.

In addition to those recent incidents, bridges were stripped of copper wire, and tools were stolen during construction on separate occasions earlier this year. Construction equipment on the Fifth Street Bridge was also stolen from the worksite in April. A week prior, vandals cut electrical wires and damaged ductwork under the bridge. During the same week, some even damaged a bridge in Wallaceburg.

This year has been one to acknowledge vandalism and work to correct it. In January, councillors voted in favour of having more security cameras installed in public areas in an effort to combat the problem.

The suggestion was championed by Councillor Mark Authier, who said constant vandalism in the municipality and the costs of cleaning it up were the catalysts for him getting behind the idea.

As fall approaches, there is still no word on if more security cameras will be installed. Blackburn reached out to Authier for further comment but did not receive a response before publication.

As for Chatham-Kent police, they do their job well, said Bray. He did, however, acknowledge that relying on a police presence only hinders law enforcement resources on a day-to-day basis.

“The police are very co-operative and I can’t dictate… how they dedicate staff but they are stretched thin enough,” said Bray. “We would need dedicated people wandering through [affected areas] all the time.”

Public information officer Renee Cowell acknowledged that the recent acts are troublesome for police.

“Officers are now being pulled away from other duties to canvas the neighbourhood for security footage or witnesses to the incident, in an effort to identify those responsible,” she said. “Property owners have to spend money to repair the damage caused by those without a moral compass and the police tie up valuable resources to investigate.”

Regardless of the resources needed to follow up on tips about suspected vandalism, police still encourage residents to report anything they deem suspicious.

“Please do not think that you are bothering us as ‘it’s probably nothing,'” said Cowell. “It might be something and we’d rather respond to [like a] a suspicious person or vehicle before they have the chance to commit an offence or damage property.”