CHARGES COMING IN VANDALISM AT VISITOR’S CENTER
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
Two local teenagers are facing charges of vandalism through the office of the Hutchinson County State’s Attorney after spray painting bathroom walls inside the visitor’s center that is part of the Freeman Prairie Arboretum.
Jay Slevin, an officer with the Freeman Police Department, told The Courier the incident was discovered early Friday afternoon, April 21 and the suspects were identified through surveillance cameras inside the visitor’s center. They were interviewed and verified that afternoon and the case was closed within hours, he said.
Between surveillance cameras and members of the public who come forward, “It doesn’t take much for us to catch them anymore,” Slevin told The Courier. “Hopefully, with them getting caught, it will make others think twice about damaging somebody else’s property.”
The vandalism occurred after the suspects gained entry into the visitor’s center through doors that are unlocked to allow the public access to the bathrooms and drinking fountain. It included green spray point on the walls of the women’s bathroom and spray paint on the men’s bathroom door, according to those who serve on the arboretum’s board of directors, and this isn’t the first incident of vandalism at the Prairie Arboretum.
In fact, there have been six previous incidents, including the visitor’s center hallway splashed with cleaning products, bricks pulled from the walkway at the fountain and thrown in the pool, Gazebo spindles knocked out, bird sculpture legs broken off twice, and another incident of green spray paint on the back of the men’s room door and walls in 2022.
“The board’s concern is that open access to the visitor center bathrooms and water fountains may end if vandalism continues,” board member Lynnelle Allison wrote in an email on behalf of the board. “Anyone noticing vandalism or questionable behavior at the Arboretum is encouraged to call the Freeman Police Department.”
“At this point we’re going to leave it open unless there is another incident,” Deb Beier, a member of the arboretum board, told The Courier.
Slevin said he didn’t know what the charges or punishment would look like as that will be handed down by a judge, but it could include reimbursement for damages, additional fines and/or community service.
The arboretum board will be submitting an amount for the damage repair.
And he said additional instances of damage and destruction of property won’t be tolerated, and he offered this simple reminder:
“This is your community,” he said. “Be respectful.”