Cameras keep eye out for vandals

Security increased at graffiti-ridden Pacific Community Park

By Paul Suarez, Columbian freelance

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Scofflaws beware: Live video of your high jinks will soon be streamed directly to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

That’s the message Clark County Public Works is hoping to share with vandals who have frequently targeted Pacific Community Park, which sits near the intersection of Northeast 162nd Avenue and Northeast 18th Street. County workers on Friday spent a few hours cleaning up the latest graffiti and installing three cameras and signs warning park visitors they are being watched.

Bill Bjerke, operations superintendent for parks and grounds maintenance at Clark County’s Department of Public Works says the cameras are a necessary move.

“It’s something that we have to do,” he said. “It’s a huge consumption of our maintenance time. We have to drop our planned activities to take care of maintenance there.”

Since the park opened in December 2007, the county has recorded 131 cases of vandalism,

resulting in more than $27,000 in repairs. Cases of vandalism have been increasing over the years and occurred at a rate of about once a week in 2011, Bjerke said.

Vandalism includes attempted arson, destruction of park property and a lot of graffiti, he said.

Maintenance crews try to use liquids to remove graffiti whenever possible, but they usually need to sandblast the walls with pumice. Theoretically, the pumice can remove the graffiti without hurting the structure’s surface, but it will still do some damage with multiple applications, he said.

The problem was initially more centered around the skate park, but shelters and other parts of the park have been getting hit hard recently, Bjerke said.

“Pacific Park is the one that gets tagged the worst,” he said. “It’s the only one that has a skate park in the county.”

The three cameras — which also have night vision capabilities — will record and stream video live to the Public Works Operations Center and Sheriff’s Office. Officials can use the video to get leads on suspects when vandalism occurs.

The cameras and equipment were purchased for about $1,300 using park maintenance and operations funds from the Greater Clark Parks District — the same money that is used to repair damage after vandals hit the park.

Public works also offers a $200 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of people who vandalize the park. Informants should call Bjerke at 360-397-6118, ext.1656, or 911 if they see vandalism in progress.

Paul Suarez: 360-735-4522; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops; paul.suarez@columbian.com.