The summer of property damage, both public and private, continued this past week as more vandalism was discovered in Milaca parks.
The spray-painting spree has become so rampant it attracted the attention of the Milaca City Council, which agreed to offer a $1,000 reward to the arrest and conviction of those responsible at its last board meeting.
The recent vandalism discovered on a utility building in Recreation Park and covering the bathrooms at Trimble Park is estimated to cost $12,000 to repair. The buildings are covered under insurance, but the city is still responsible for a $5,000 deductible.
The graffiti is a familiar sight in Milaca these days. The last time the vandals struck, they coated several businesses downtown, the bridge on County Road 36 just south of town and other locations.
Milaca Mayor Pete Pedersen and members of the City Council discussed the problem in length. Pedersen suggested that perhaps curfew needs to be enforced more often.
“How are we going to stop them at 1 o’clock in the morning?” Councilmember Wayne Bekius asked.
Pedersen said the vandals should have been easy enough to spot, considering how much damage they did.
“Whoever did that in Rec Park — it took them a while to do it,” he said.
Police have identified and arrested at least two individuals believed to have been responsible for the graffiti.
“They did get some confessions out of some of them,” Milaca City Manager Greg Lerud said. “They admitted to some of the vandalism, but not all of it.”
Two men were arrested and charged in a series of incidents that occurred in late May and early June of this year.
Adam Nathaniel Gerrard, 19, and Lewis Frederick Lloyd Peterson, 19, both of Milaca, were arrested and charged in connection with garage break-ins on 150th Street and 110th Avenue in Milaca. Graffiti was also found spray painted on exterior walls at both break-ins. After investigators found some of the stolen items from those break-ins at nearby pawn shops, police arrested Gerrard, who led them to Peterson.
According to the criminal complaints, Gerrard and Peterson also confessed to the vandalism at the Milaca Evangelical Free Church, Rum River Park in Princeton and other locations throughout Mille Lacs County.
The men have been charged with second- and third-degree burglary, fourth-degree damage to property and theft.
It is unclear as to who is responsible for the most recent vandalism, but city officials are not backing down.
Pedersen said he would like to see the parks more heavily patrolled by police going forward.
“But they can’t be everywhere,” Lerud said. “And if these people are using look-outs, then it will be really hard to catch them. Todd (Quaintance, chief of police) has brought in some of the part-timers and they are on some interesting shifts.”
The council has discussed installing surveillance cameras in the parks, but the expense of purchasing high quality video equipment has postponed the possibility.
Councilmember Norris Johnson suggested the city could install simple cameras, perhaps the kind hunters use to monitor wild game movements, just so the city could post signs indicating the area was being video taped.
With the property damage quickly surpassing tens of thousands of dollars, the city is hoping the reward and other efforts, even though costly, will put an end to the summerlong vandalism spree.
“It’s costing us a lot of money,” Councilmember Ken Muller said.