GOWANDA, N.Y. — A recent bout of vandalism led leaders of the Village of Gowanda to take some drastic measures, which included removing many of the amenities enjoyed by young people at St. John's Park.
However, it was a calculated measure that appears to have brought the desired outcome.
The vandalism occurred last Thursday and Gowanda Police Department Officer in Charge, Ben Shields, noted that it was the very first day of summer vacation for students.
According to Shields, this included the smearing of what appeared to be “Nutella“ ice cream and various other sticky substances all over the floor of the pavilion's tables and posts, the tossing of a bike tire and a road cone into the basketball hoops, pulling one of the pipes out of the top of the fence, and strewing garbage around the park.
"Quite honestly, and I'm not trying to sound like a big tough guy, but we're not messing around with this, this year," said Shields. "Enough is enough."
Shields, in a move approved by Village Mayor David Smith, took to social media to announce that at his request the picnic tables and basketball hoops were being removed …and that while unfortunate, the "blatant disrespect for village property" left the village with no choice.
All Part of The Plan
The amenities removed over the weekend, however, were back in the park on Monday, and it turned out there was a method to all of this.
"I posted that on Facebook knowing full well it was a calculated decision to put that on there because I wanted to use social media to our advantage," Shields explained.
As a School Resource Officer, Shields has picked up quite a bit of knowledge about the way kids think and so has Smith, who besides serving as Mayor, is also the Principal at the Gowanda Middle and High School.
Both figured the vandalism was likely the work of some young folks in the community where, according to Shields, "99% of the kids " are decent and wouldn't do this.
And they figured that a large majority wouldn't let the misdeeds of a few spoil things for the rest of them.
"Typically, the whole group punishment for the actions of a few is never really recommended," explained Smith. "But we did that very purposefully here so that we could encourage some of the good kids to come foreword with some information."
It didn't take long for that information to come forth.
"And we've got some leads now as to for who the perpetrators were and those were being investigated," confirmed Smith.
Doing The Right Thing
"There's an old saying," added Shields. "There's no greater evil than the indifference of good men...we need kids to know that they need to step forward and feel comfortable doing so, and to know they're not snitching or ratting...but instead doing what is right for their community and let us know who is doing this sort of damage."
And Shields is glad that the amenities are back in the park.
"We need the kids to be in the parks. That's why we have the parks."