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New park signs in Boonsboro designed to give police 'a little teeth'

July 07, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

BOONSBORO, Md. -- New signs at Shafer Memorial Park will give the Boonsboro Police Department more leverage for enforcing trespassing laws, officials said.

Recent loitering by juveniles and suspected related vandalism prompted police to post the signs on all six pavilions at the park, Chief Jeff Hewett said Tuesday at the regular meeting of the mayor and town council.

The new signs read: "Shafer Park pavilions are for group use by lease only. Prior leasing arrangements must be made through town hall. All other groups or loitering are strictly prohibited and violators will be charged with trespassing under Maryland criminal law Article 6-409 'Trespassing on Public Grounds.' Boonsboro Police Department."

"We wanted something to give us a little teeth," Hewett said.

Police previously ran off loiterers with a verbal warning, he said.

Because the new signs are "conspicuously posted," he said officers have authority under the criminal code to issue citations for trespassing.

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Officers will issue a written notice or warning for first offenses, he said. On second offense, violators will be prohibited from entering the park for 30 days, and on a third offense, police will charge a violator with criminal trespassing on public grounds, he said.

It was loitering by a group of juveniles in Shafer Memorial Park last month that allegedly resulted in vandalism that prompted Hewett to pursue the signs, said Town Manager Debra Smith.

Smith said a group of juveniles loitering at a park pavilion allegedly, on the last day of school, broke into the town's springhouse by cutting a lock. Once inside, they turned off power to the well, which shut down a town water source, she said.

The loss of power triggered an alarm, which notified town staff of the incident, she said.

No one lost water service because of the incident, but Smith said the incident went beyond typical vandalism at the park.

In addition to breaking in and turning off power to the well, the juveniles allegedly also pulled outlets and light bulbs from the park pavilion, damaged a trash can and spread trash around the pavilion, she said.

Hewett said an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

In the future, Smith said the signs should help police enforce trespassing regulations and deter vandalism.

Posting the signs should also force groups of juveniles into open areas of the park, hopefully keeping the pavilions in good repair for other users, she said.

"We are not trying to discourage kids being in the park," she said.

The town is trying to discourage trashing of pavilions and other vandalism, she said.

Boonsboro has had a growing problem with groups of juveniles loitering at the park's pavilions, she said.

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