HOULTON, Maine - The measures Houlton Police Department have taken to curb vandalism by juveniles to public buildings and property in town appear to be working, according to the police chief.
“The calls we are receiving about vandalism are going down,” Chief Butch Asselin said Wednesday. “It tells us that our increased patrols and the advertising of our tip line, as well as the posters we’ ve put up, seem to be working.”
In late spring, Houlton police began seeing more vandalism — including words, pictures and names etched into stone with knives or scrawled onto walls or pillars with markers — appearing in town.
That prompted the department to step up patrols and put undercover officers on the street to nab those who were contributing to a rapidly escalating graffiti cleanup bill that ultimately has to be passed on to taxpayers.
The bill now is in the thousands of dollars, according to Asselin.
Much of the vandalism has taken place at the Houlton Amphitheater in Monument Park, in Community Park and in Riverside Park. The incidents have been happening on and off since May, according to the chief.
The parks are popular hangouts for local youths, especially in the summer. Some juveniles who are alleged to have been behind some of the vandalism have been summoned or arrested by police and will make court appearances in the near future, according to the chief.
Asselin said he felt that the increased patrols and a community education campaign — which involved hanging posters in the windows of downtown businesses and other local stores — contributed to the decrease in such criminal activity.
The bright blue posters urge members of the public to keep their eyes open for potential vandals, and to report any vandalism that they see to police by calling 532-2287 or dialing the department’ s tip line at 694-3545.
“The people that are doing this only represent about 1 percent of the population,” said the chief. “But this kind of thing affects the whole community. It is counterproductive and the taxpayers have to foot the bill for this.”
While Asselin acknowledged there has been a lull in the vandalism complaints as of late, he said that officers would continue the heightened campaign to nab those involved in such criminal mischief.
“You always have to be vigilant about this, because this is the sort of problem that never goes away,” he said. “And our policy remains the same — anyone suspected of vandalism will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”