Vandalism an ongoing problem at Marshall parks

City encourages public to be ‘eyes and ears’ in stopping vandalism

Photo by Preston Stensrud Vandalism at Marshall parks has been a growing problem over the past couple of years, Marshall city staff said this week. One incident of vandalism in the past year was a smashed restroom stall partition at Independence Park, said Marshall Parks and Recreation Superintendent Preston Stensrud.

MARSHALL — Marshall Parks and Recreation Superintendent Preston Stensrud said he’s been getting lots of reports of graffiti and vandalism lately.

“It seems like almost daily,” Stensrud said. It also seemed like vandalism reports were coming unusually early in the year, maybe because of the mild winter weather.

“It’s frustrating, because you try and make things look nice,” Stensrud said.

This week, Stensrud and Marshall Public Safety Director Jim Marshall urged local residents to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and report vandalism.

“It has such a negative impact on our community in general,” Marshall said of vandalism. In addition to vandalism costing the city thousands of dollars and taking up city employees’ time, Marshall said he was concerned that seeing lots of vandalism damage around parks would make people feel less invested their public spaces.

Stensrud said that the damage at Marshall parks this spring has included some large spray-painted graffiti tags on buildings in Freedom Park and Patriot Park. Those incidents happened last month, he said.

“I think that tagging or spray painting has become more frequent,” Stensrud said. In recent years there has also been damage to park restrooms, like destroyed stall partitions, or smashed sinks or toilets, Stensrud said.

From January through March of this year, the Marshall Police Department has responded to a total of 14 calls about vandalism, according to police activity reports posted on the Marshall city website. In 2022, the next year with data posted, Marshall Police responded to a total of 51 vandalism calls. Police responded to a total of 26 vandalism calls in 2021, 35 calls in 2020, and 12 calls in 2019.

Marshall and Stensrud said city employees act quickly to try and clean up graffiti when it’s reported. “It’s so people don’t think this is tolerated, because it’s not,” Marshall said.

However, cleaning up or repairing vandalism damage is something that eats up city staff time and resources, Stensrud said. He estimated that last year, vandalism repairs cost the city a total of around $20,000 to $25,000. In one example, replacing damaged bathroom stalls cost $4,300, he said. “It adds up in a hurry.”

To help prevent future acts of vandalism, Stensrud and Marshall said the city has added video cameras at all city parks and in areas outside parks. Stensrud said he has also worked to install lights around park buildings, to discourage vandalism.

The Marshall Crime Prevention Fund made it possible to purchase and install more security cameras at city Parks, Marshall said.

“It’s definitely made a difference, as far as catching and identifying people,” Stensrud said.

Marshall said that having security cameras has helped for overall safety and security at parks, in addition to helping fight vandalism.

At the same time, it was also important for members of the public to report damage to city parks facilities, Stensrud and Marshall said.

“I think it comes down to the public to be our eyes and ears,” Stensrud said.

Marshall said it’s also important to remember that the city of Marshall has a curfew ordinance for minors under 16. While there are some exceptions to the curfew, unsupervised minors aren’t allowed to loiter on the streets or in public places between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. “It’s also illegal for a parent to allow that,” Marshall said.

The curfew ordinance is mainly concerned with the safety and welfare of children, Marshall said in a city news release. “Youth who are out during curfew and are not accompanied by a parent or guardian run an increased risk of being victimized or getting involved in an illegal behavior such as vandalism, theft, and tobacco, alcohol and drug use,” he said.

To report vandalism or curfew ordinance violations, members of the public can call the Marshall Police Department’s non-emergency line at 507-537-7000.

“Don’t hesitate to call for suspicious activity,” Marshall said.


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