Vandals Damage Gazebo at Roberto Clemente Park

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Vandals Damage Gazebo at Roberto Clemente Park: Are Special Police the Answer?
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PATERSON, NJ – Vandals severely damaged the gazebo at Robert Clemente Park on Tuesday, highlighting the difficulties city officials have in keeping Paterson’s parks in good condition.

Officials said witnesses say a group of youths used bats and pipes to break the gazebo’s railings and damage its posts. The vandals also sprayed graffiti all over the gazebo after parks workers recently painted over the graffiti that had been there previously, officials said.

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“It really gets frustrating,’’ said Public Works Director Christopher Coke, who oversees the parks. “It’s just blatant disrespect for any type of civility.’’

Coke said his office was working on an estimate on how much the damage would cost to repair.

Officials said witnesses called police, but the youths left before a patrol car arrived. Councilman Benjie Wimberly said he thinks the city should consider assigning special police officers – if and when those jobs are created – to patrol the municipal parks.

“The special police would help with all types of problems we have,’’ said Wimberly. “There’s the illegal playing without permits, the vandalism, the drinking of alcohol, the smoking illegal substances.’’

City Business Administrator Charles Thomas has said he hopes to present the city council with ordinance creating special police sometime in September. The city can’t afford to assign regular police full-time to the parks, but that could become part of the special police officers’ duties, Wimberly said.

“It’s a quality of life issue,’’ Wimberly said. “The parks are one of our services that people should be able to enjoy, whether they’re having a picnic, or going to a ballgame or listening to a concert.’’

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