Alpena police work to stop local defacers, catch recent offenders

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A group of teenage boys play basketball at the new basketball courts near the Alpena Skate Park. Following recent vandalism, the new courts have a special surface and new backboards and rims.

ALPENA — Acts of vandalism and theft in Alpena pop up from time to time, but the use of technology has made it easier for police to locate the people who commit the crimes.

From spray painting graffiti on local buildings and infrastructure to destroying private and public property, most often vandals cause damage for no particular reason.

In a community like Alpena, vandalism is costly and forces police away from investigations for more serious crimes to solve a crime that may be a misdemeanor.

Over the last several weeks, there have been several acts of vandalism that have drawn headlines in Alpena: the damage to the new basketball courts near the skate park and one of the elaborate flower displays outside the Sanctuary Cinema during the Flower Festival this past weekend.

The damage to the basketball court happened in mid-May and has already been fixed and the damaged equipment replaced.

Courtesy Photo Two women appear to be stealing a flower display early Sunday morning on this screenshot from a surveillance video. The Alpena Police Department is looking for the women and asking the public to help identify them.

As for the flower display, police have released a photo of the two women who were recorded on video stealing the display at the theater and are asking the public for help to identify them.

Alpena Police Chief Eric Hamp said police are investigating the damage to the basketball courts and the damage and theft of the flower feature. He said most often, vandalism in Alpena consists of graffiti or minor damage, but, from time to time, larger damage is done too.

Hamp said he doesn’t believe there is an increase in vandalism, but police will be keeping a watchful eye for suspicious behavior and new locations of vandalism.

“Unfortunately it is not uncommon, but right now, I don’t think we are seeing a rash of vandalism,” Hamp said. “It’s unfortunate when it happens, but it does happen. But, we are not being overrun with vandalism throughout the city.”

Hamp said a person who commits an act of vandalism should plan on being located and possibly arrested and charged with crimes such as destruction of property and possibly larceny if something is stolen, as is the case with the flower decoration. He said with the development of new security systems, it is hard for someone to vandalize something and get away with it.

“We are getting to a point that more times than not, they are captured on camera and obviously video evidence is very helpful when it comes to prosecution and identifying suspects,” he said. “There are now doorbells with security cameras in them and many ways people can protect their businesses and homes, so it is hard to get away with it.”

Cinema owner Jeff Konczak said millions of dollars are being invested into Alpena to help it grow and create a community that residents are proud of and visitors want to return to. He said crimes like vandalism and larceny can give the community a black eye and make people think twice about spending money on future development and events.

“It’s just stupid,” he said.

Hamp said Alpena police patrols 24 hours a day and officers are always watching for suspicious behavior. He said in a city the size of Alpena, the police rely on tips or reports from residents so police can follow them up.

“If you see something that is unusual or doesn’t look right, call,” he said. “School is now out, there are more people in town, and when there are more people, the likelihood of something happening goes up. People should also remember to lock their cars up and their homes. They should take reasonable steps to protect themselves and their property.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 or sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.


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