Sheriff Whidden and Director Ramiro Rodriguez show what will happen if you are caught in the act of vandalism. (Submitted photo)
Also known as criminal mischief it is the willful and malicious destruction of property that doesn’t belong to you. The LaBelle area parks this year have seen an increase in vandalism. Vandalism from graffiti on walls to busted ceramic toilets. A single incident of vandalism to property according to the U.S. Small Business Administration costs on average $3,370. Vandalism is a crime, misdemeanor for damages under a limit set by the state and a felony above that mark. The felony is punishable by a fine and prison time. A lot of people might say “is that fair”, jail time, think about it. It is your money and it was taken from you. Is that fair? Keeping these parks safe, clean and fun for all to use is the number one priority of the employees of the Hendry-LaBelle Recreation Board. The damage to our restrooms is by far the worst damage from a single incident that Hendry-LaBelle Recreation Board incurs. Picnic tables, bleachers, fencing and the list goes on. It is so disappointing that someone in LaBelle who destroy these parks don’t recognize that the people who use the parks pay the price for so much damage and such damage hurts us all. Our parks get a lot of use by all citizens. Different organizations hold many functions in our parks. LaBelle doesn’t have a movie theater or arcade game room. What is there for our young teenage citizens to do? Take a look at a park the next time you drive by. Better yet, stop in at the park and see what is going on and enjoy the amenities. These parks are for all citizens as well as sports leagues. The Hendry-LaBelle Rec Board has been hard at working on opening the Hendry-LaBelle Regional Sports Complex. The new fencing that was put in recently for the baseball backstops, someone already took a crowbar and punctured a hole in. The list goes on.
Some of the vandalism that has been done. (Submitted photo)
It is truly disappointing to see our Rec Dept. crew working so hard to keep these parks in tip top shape for someone to come along and destroy them. It’s the well-behaved park users that will be affected by others’ bad behavior. Over the next few years you will notice a change from our ceramic restroom fixtures to stainless steel to help curtail some of this damage. That’s not to say that they can’t be damaged but the Rec Board hopes it will make people think twice before deciding to damage public property that we all use. The Rec Board will be implementing a camera system in all of our parks. The community must consider the facts and what must be done. We must go to our parks and enjoy them. If you see someone doing any sort of damage in a park alert the authorities, call (863) 674-5600. If more citizens are aware of the vandalism and are looking for this inappropriate behavior it will begin to disappear. This is a good goal that we must all participate in to achieve positive results. Vandalism cannot be addressed by one group of people. It must be a conscious decision by all citizens where community property is involved. LaBelle is a strong community when we stand united and together.