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City to Install Security Cameras to Thwart Vandals at Library Park

City leaders take steps to stop frequent vandalism during the city's Family Festival and Farmers Market.

Fed up with rampant vandalism at Library Park, city officials have approved a plan to mount security cameras on the library in an effort to catch the culprits.

The City Council authorized the purchase of surveillance equipment last month after city crews routinely had to remove graffiti and repair damage to structures, trees and playground equipment. Police have responded to 17 different incidents of vandalism at the park so far this year, said Monrovia Police Sgt. Glen Coleman said.

The cameras--purchased from USA Alarm Systems Inc. for about $17,000--will be installed within the next 90 days.

Coleman said the majority of the vandalism occurs during the city's weekly Family Festival and Farmers Market, which draws throngs of teenagers to the park on Friday nights. The rowdy behavior of some of those teens has been an ongoing problem, Coleman said.

"When you take your family to the park, you don't want people vandalizing the place and standing on benches, running amok," Coleman said.

The problem at the festival has gotten so bad that police began doing bicycle patrols and issuing citations last month. Teenagers have been caught and cited for smoking marijuana, drinking and using profanity, City Manager Scott Ochoa said.

"We're writing citations, and we're having mom and dad come and pick up junior at the police station," Ochoa said.

The city spends about $50,000 per year on graffiti removal, but Ochoa did not know how much of that has gone toward cleaning up Library Park.

John Gomia, a parks maintenance worker with the city's Public Works Department, said the vandalism problem has been "pretty consistent" at the park since it opened in May 2009. Repairing the damage has become a chore, he said.

"A lot of it comes off easy but with some it of you have to repaint the whole place," Gomia said.

The new cameras should provide a valuable deterrent and also aid police in finding the culprits responsible for destroying public property, Coleman said.

"A lot of time we end up catching people based on videos," Coleman said, noting that security cameras often capture the license plates of vehicles associated with crimes.

The city already has a graffiti bounty program that pays residents $100 for information that leads to an arrest. The police department has paid out the bounty three times this year, Coleman said.

Ochoa has repeatedly stressed that the extra security measures wouldn't be necessary if parents were properly supervising their children at night.

"The problem that we have is we don't have the resources to effectively babysit the kids and young adults who like to hang out on the west side of the park," Ochoa said. "The community winds up spending resources [on things] that hopefully families and parents can do for themselves."

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