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Constant park vandalism in Snohomish has city taking measures, including considering cameras

SNOHOMISH — Unknown vandals have done more than $200,000 in damage to parks in the past few months, and it’s frustrated the city enough that it might install security cameras.
At Hill Park, somebody busted the electrical system at the lower picnic shelter and ruined the restroom.
At Pilchuck Park’s bathroom soon after, somebody went ape, kicking apart the interior and ripping fixtures off the walls.
Ferguson Park got maybe the worst. On an early morning, somebody set a wad of toilet paper on fire inside the brick bathroom, which destroyed most of the interior made of wood; it has cost more than $80,000 to clean up and restore. (Its replacement interior will be made of stainless steel.)
All of this happened during the late fall, but more damage has happened since.
Snohomish Police have stepped up patrols in response, Police Chief Rob Palmer said by email.
“We have increased park checks at night,” he said. Detectives are investigating these incidents, “but so far no leads have developed,” Palmer said. “The cases remain open and active.”
The vandalism is demoralizing for the city’s three-person parks crew, said Tim Cross, the city’s public works operations manager who oversees parks. Parks employees had renovated Ferguson Park’s bathroom shortly before it burned in the fire.
Equally frustrating is that the damage temporarily closed these parks to the public.
The city’s parks close at dusk. People are encouraged to call 911 if they observe anything suspicious in the future, Palmer said. If you have home security cameras that see the park entrances, the footage could help investigators, the chief said.
City cameras could become another tool.
Last fall, the city asked for proposals to learn what it would cost for modern monitoring equipment at five city buildings. Putting cameras in parks in strategic places was added to the proposal request, Cross said.
The city hasn’t formally created a budget for cameras, city administrator Steve Schuller said last week. They’re currently reviewing the responses from vendors.
But if the idea goes ahead, one idea for park security would let a police officer glance at the cameras on-the-fly using the internet and drive over when a response is necessary, Cross explained at a recent parks board meeting.
Nobody should be in the park bathrooms anyhow: they are currently closed for the winter. When the bathrooms reopen in March, the protocol will be to have parks staff manually lock the bathrooms at night and unlock them in the morning, Cross said. People are interfering with the automatic locking systems for the bathrooms by defeating the magnetic sensors.
The city’s insurer is paying for some of the damage, but fixing vandalism still steals money meant for park maintenance. The city’s parks budget is $1.8 million, of which $1.2 million is meant to go toward park maintenance and upkeep needed throughout the year.
It’s been something different every week, Cross said Feb. 3. Fresh on his mind was that on Jan. 29, somebody tried breaking the locks to Hill Park’s bathroom.
At the First Street bathroom, people seeking shelter have outsmarted the locking system. People are outwitting the automatic locks by getting inside before closing time for the bathrooms, and then letting others in after-hours, Cross described. Police get called in the morning when park crews encounter somebody who spent the night.




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