Top News

Living in an age of vandalism


It seems like we play a risky game of roulette in Newfoundland and Labrador when we build infrastructure that can’t be protected by lock and key.

You want to spend thousands or millions of dollars on something that will be standing outdoors 365 days a year? Apparently, you’re a glutton for punishment.

Go to The Telegram website, do a search on the word “vandalism” and behold the incredible number of articles that pop up.

July isn’t even a week old, and there’re already stories of a scout camp being trashed and a plover nest being run over by ATVs.

Then there is the sad story about Zachary’s Playground in North West River. It’s the local school’s playground but has been used after hours by the town’s children for years.

Since late June, a gated fence has been encircling its perimeter. It’s not something anyone wanted to do, but what other choice was there?

The springtime weather back in May saw problems at the playground that has caused headaches for children and parents: vandalism, graffiti, drug use and bullying.

When I first saw the fence at the playground, it seemed so out of place. I grew up using that playground, in and out of school hours.

It was a free place where kids could be kids. At recess, a teacher would be on the grounds, but would keep his or her distance unless a fight broke out. Parents were perfectly fine with letting us play there in the afternoon and early evening without constant supervision.

This was a good 20 years ago, long before the playground got its recent improvements and new equipment.

We played on equipment that wouldn’t pass inspection these days. The teeter-totter had missing handlebars. Imagine being up in the air and using your body weight to balance you. I once fell off and hit my back on the horizontal bar. I had to sit out gym class that afternoon, but at least there was no hospital visit.

It was impressive to see the improvements made over the last year or two. The equipment is new and provides plenty of options for kids to play on. It certainly is a lot more pleasing to look at, as well.

Ironically, the playground is harder to use now than it was back then. What is it about things that are shiny and new that bring out the vandals?

Even the picnic tables aren’t safe. This year, vandals rammed them with their ATVs hard enough to knock them out of their cement bedding, leading to costly repairs. For whatever reason, ATVs seem to be the preferred transport method for troublemakers.

I have never understood the mindset of vandals. What satisfaction do they receive from destroying something that is meant for public use?

When I was a kid, the thought of vandalizing something was out of the question for my friends and I. The potential consequences of being caught by an adult would have been enough to scare us away from such acts.

I don’t know if parenting is the problem, but the question has to be raised. “Do modern-day kids face enough consequences for their actions? Do too many kids have too little respect for other people and their property?”

A vandal’s satisfaction, of course, is everyone else’s headache. The volunteers who raised money to make the playground better are now exhausted. They shouldn’t have to be patrolling the area in the evenings, picking up bongs, or raising money to construct a fence.

But alas, this is the direction we’re heading in. It’s becoming pointless in many places to build something unless you can fund a security guard, a camera system or a gate to go along with it. Even in the tiniest of towns, like North West River, we can no longer trust everyone to act respectfully.

— Derek Montague is a reporter/photographer with The Labradorian. He can be reached by email at the following: derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

Recent Stories