Park vandalism reaches high in summer months

The frequency of vandalism in public parks spiked over the summer for the second year in a row, according to Boulder police reports.

Officials responded to seven reports of vandalism during summers 2014 and 2015. That’s a 57 percent increase from how many were reported in 2013 and a 71 percent increase from 2012.

Parks and recreation employees said vandalism — particularly graffiti — has been on the rise over the past several months.

“Graffiti has definitely increased and caused some damage on our parks property,” said Vanessa Shatz, a spokesperson from the Parks and Recreation department. “Graffiti is getting worse throughout the city of Boulder in general.”

Schatz noted that cleanup for graffiti happens at a cost to the Parks and Recreation department, but she couldn’t specify how much has been spent on repairs.

Parks and Recreation employees do their best to anticipates where vandalism may occur in parks during the design process, Schatz said. The construction staff avoids creating dark, enclosed spaces, and they implement lights wherever possible.

Beyond these preemptive measures, Schatz said, there’s little her department can do to deter vandals.

Graffiti isn’t the only type of vandalism that has occurred more frequently in recent months.

Maintenance workers have also been responsible for cleaning up homeless camps and belongings left by Boulder’s transient population.

“They build literal camps,” said Callie Hayden, parks operations and assets manager. “What happens in those areas is they’re heavily impacted with trash and sometimes human waste, a lot of drug paraphernalia and abandoned property. I think it’s using more and more of our resources — the human excrement and drug paraphernalia we’re running into.”

Hayden said many of these camps are formed along the Boulder Creek Path and beneath underpasses in parks.

During the summer months, she said, parks maintenance crews removed four truckloads of abandoned property from the underpass on 13th Street and Arapahoe Avenue.

Hayden noted that Parks and Recreation will soon be working with the Boulder Department of Transportation to alter certain underpasses and make them a less appealing destination for homeless camps. But she couldn’t reveal specifics about what changes would be made or provide a timeline for the changes.

Transient and homeless come to Boulder in because of the city’s public facilities, Hayden said.

“I feel Boulder has become somewhat of a haven for folks who are transient,” she said. “I believe that Boulder offers a lot of services for people in need, and people take advantage of them.”

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