Trashed gardens, items missing from cars, smashed planters and cracked rearview mirrors. These are part of the litter left in the wake of a vandalism wave oin Barclay Heights. Residents say they are fed up.
In an effort to catalog instances of vandalism and sightings of suspicious persons, the community has taken to NextDoor, a social-media app for neighbors. Since the beginning of June, residents have taken up their phones to detail damages and warn each other of dangerous road detritus caused by the crime spurts.
Since Charles Stracuzzi of Blue Hill detailed the recurring problem at a June 13 town board meeting, the local police have joined the effort, keeping an official eye on the feed. The most recent instance, according to the app’s feed, was a bench relocated to the middle of the road on the corner of Rose Lane and Appletree, as cataloged by a dog walker who caught the road hazard at 5 a.m. on June 14.
“I just wouldn’t expect something like this in this neighborhood,” said Brian June of Edith Avenue. June confronted a band of teens last week after watching them attempt to uproot his neighbors plants at 10:30 in the evening. “I came out pretty strong with them,” he said, “and it didn’t faze them in the least. They were extremely bold. I’m worried about it progressing. If they get away with this, maybe they’ll slash tires.”
Residents have asked the Saugerties police for more patrols in the area. Police chief Joe Sinagra says that cops on the road are already stretched thin – at minimum staffing, which is the norm for the 23-man department. Usually, one cop is assigned to patrol the village while just two are out patrolling the entire town.
“We depend on the public to be our eyes and ears. That’s how it really works,” said Sinagra. “We all have the responsibility of policing our community. [The police] get paid to do it, but it’s everyone’s responsibility. We can’t be every place every second. We can’t afford to keep a car there 24/7. If we did that, there would be another area of town with problems and we’d be chasing our tail.”
Sinagra said the department needed to work with the public, and they need to work with the police. “Together, we can bring an end to this,” he said. “We can identify who these people who are creating issues.”
Residents have caught glimpses of bands of roving teens appearing to be between the ages of 14 and 16 in their neighborhood. June confronted four girls and two boys, whom he said were kempt, at 10 p.m. on June 14.
Joseph Geraci of Edgewood Drive snapped and shared a photo of five boys, who were allegedly “running through properties and ringing doorbells” via the app.
“They need to pay for damages,” said Edith Avenue resident Alice Conklin, whose plants have been a recurring target for the vandals. “When I was a kid we liked to stay out late during the summer, but we would never have dared destroying people’s property.”
Geraci has taken a proactive approach: “Myself, I get home at 10:30 at night. Before I go into my driveway, I always take a drive around to see if anything is going on. It’s really up to the community.”
Geraci, whose basketball hoop was dismantled by the vandals, spoke at length about the importance of keeping an eye out for the neighborhood. “Honestly, I would say on behalf of the community if more of us had security cameras we’re sure to catch these kids. The more people who have cameras, the better we can keep an eye on things. It’s unrealistic to have police presence at all times. We can ask for more controls, but it’ll be up to the community to keep an eye on things. We have to do our part so that the police can do theirs.”
Sinagra is a proponent of security cameras, calling them a “way to have more police presence without hiring more cops.”
“When we did a neighborhood canvass we found that some neighbors in that particular area of Barclay Heights had security cameras,” said Sinagra. “It’s unfortunate that we need to put up video [cameras] nowadays, but it really is a great tool post-event in helping us solve crime.”
Should the perpetrators of these property damages be minors, Sinagra said their parents may be held accountable if they accrue criminal mischief charges, and may be charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
“What we’ve done in the past is we will charge the parents and they will have to go to court and answer why their kid was out at three o’clock in the morning wreaking havoc in the neighborhood. Parents have to be aware that their children are home. If they’re not home, where are they?”
Kids shouldn’t be out half the night hanging out with friends, said Sinagra. “We all know that’s when bad things happen. If they want to hang out, why don’t they do it at one of the kid’s houses? Why are they out doing damage to other people’s property? People work hard on upkeep and spend a lot of money, and people think it’s funny to break their planters. It’s ridiculous. If we catch them and they’re of the age to be charged, they’re going to be.”
In an unrelated incident, a burglar in the Barclay Heights area was apprehended and charged on June 17 after Saugerties cops were able to identify perpetrator Kayla N. Araujo, 27, with video evidence of her break-ins on Spaulding Court on June 15 provided by local property owners.
“We saw the same individual on different reels of footage, and officers found a woman fitting the description and questioned him which led to the arrest,” said Sinagra.
The chief encourages residents to call the police after each instance of vandalism, to keep eyes on each other’s properties, and to invest in surveillance equipment.
“What I don’t want to see happen is to have the residents have to take it into their own hands,” said Stracuzzi. “We’re kind of at that point now.”