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Park vandals prompt action

It started with a little graffiti at R. E. Olds Park.

Then someone plucked the kiddie hobby horses from their springs. The park's lone bathroom was destroyed with a hammer. Two months ago, somebody set the new bathroom's paper towel dispenser on fire.

When shingles and siding were ripped from that bathroom about a week and a half ago, council member Jerry Beverland decided he'd had enough.

He will suggest more lights at R. E. Olds Park, a $1,000 reward for tipsters who lead to the arrest of vandals and signs warning the would-be criminals away.

"It's just time to put a stop to it," said Beverland, who will end his term on the City Council next week. "I've had a few people say that for a thousand dollars, they'll sit down there and wait for them."

Last year's hammer attack on the park's old bathroom broke sink fixtures, knocked out a wall and ruined pipes. That and most of the other vandalism is believed to happen after dark, with a few exceptions like the paper towel dispenser fire, which happened during the daytime.

"Someone had to do that with people in the park," said Robert Kerce, the city's recreation leader. "It's not always something that happens at night."

Still, Beverland believes more lights will deter the guilty parties. So far, most of the incidents have been confined to R. E. Olds Park. Beverland thinks that is because the city's other major park, Canal Park, has better lighting and more activity at night because of the St. Petersburg Junior College campus.

"I think it kind of surfaces on and off," Vice Mayor Rosemary Wiseman said. "I really don't think it's epidemic proportions or anything like that."

Wiseman thinks asking the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to step up its patrol of the R. E. Olds Park area will help.

"Anytime you have an open area like that, it's kind of hard to be everywhere and see everything at one time," she said.

IF YOU GO:

The Oldsmar City Council will meet at 7 tonight in the council chambers at 100 State St.

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