BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Each week leading to the November 8 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answers are from Democratic candidate Jill Zatta for Week 3.

Thoughts about continued occurrences of vandalism to public and private property that has hit Berkeley Heights. What do you want the township to do about this issue and what are your suggestions? What do you want the township to do about this issue and what are your suggestions?

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Like many of you, Stephen Yellin and I are outraged at the recent acts of vandalism in Berkeley Heights. Defacing public and private property carries serious economic and social costs that our town and residents cannot afford to bear. Vandalism is a particularly difficult problem to solve because the perpetrator is unseen and the true victim is unknown. This is a problem all communities and property owners face together and we need to devise a collective approach that solves the “why” and “how” of these unsightly and damaging occurrences.

One of the main causes of vandalism is a vandal’s belief that he or she can get away with the crime. Vandalism occurs in areas that are easy to access but hard to patrol. A lot of public space in Berkeley Heights fits this description. Stephen Yellin and I believe we need to increase surveillance in these areas. We will push to install security cameras and post signs regarding fines and punishments for individuals caught vandalizing property. These are simple, low-cost but effective ways to create a feeling of oversight and security in areas of our town.

In small towns like ours, vandalism is sometimes committed by the younger residents. While it is not reported who is responsible for recent events, experience tells us this is a definite possibility. It is no secret Berkeley Heights is lacking in community space for our teenagers. Without dedicated places “to go”, we do not have the means to keep teens engaged and out of trouble. This is one of the reasons why Stephen Yellin and I are so passionate about making sure the upcoming Municipal Complex happens on time and on-budget. A community space like the one proposed will provide place and programming for all residents, young and old alike. Stephen Yellin and I are committed to supporting the project through transparency, communication, and fiscal accountability.

When vandalism happens, we must respond quickly so it does not invite others to commit the same crime. The presence of graffiti and vandalism begets more vandalism. That is why is it important to demonstrate our pride for our community through the act of caring of our community. What does it say to a potential vandal if our roads are potholed and our playing fields are dried up and barren? Are we inviting this unwanted attention because it (incorrectly) assumes we don’t care? Last week, Stephen Yellin and I unveiling a real plan to hasten road repairs. Next, we are going to focus on what we can do about our sports fields in Berkeley Heights. We have a plan to create a dedicated fund for maintaining and improving these public spaces. We will be discussing this plan in detail in the near future.

These are all examples of Positive Change for a positive purpose. The issues our town faces affect everyone - Republican, Democrat, and Independent alike. I invite you to keep reading our responses, week after week, and when you go to the polls in November, we trust you will support the real plan for real change.