Shawano parks see uptick in vandalism, other criminal calls

Nighttime patrols stepping up as police encourage public to help
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

The Shawano Police Department is stepping up its efforts to catch those who are responsible for damaging city parks in recent weeks.

According to Lt. Mike Musolff, most of the events are happening in the evening hours, when it’s possible there could be witnesses seeing the vandalism taking place. As a result, the police are stepping up patrols of the city’s over two dozen public parks at night, which includes walking through the parks and approaching to anyone who is in the parks at that time for questioning. Bike patrols might also be possible.

Musolff noted that many of the calls for vandalism and other crimes involve children. One call in Franklin Park recently involved a juvenile girl with a knife threatening another juvenile. Camera footage at Smalley Park shows juveniles throwing rocks at the camera. There have been a couple of calls to the parks regarding juveniles drinking alcohol.

“We’ve had fights. We’ve had vandalism,” Musolff said. “We’ve had curfew violations, fights, damage to the bathrooms, the cameras and some other equipment.”

Curfew in the city for juveniles is 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday, with certain exceptions, like attending or returning home from school-sponsored activities or other events in the city, or if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Some of the incidents are simple violations of park regulations, in which officers issue no trespass notices to those involved. Musolff said those notices frustrate parents, especially those who regularly utilize the parks.

“We issue no trespass notices, and if they come back, we write citations,” Musolff said. “That usually irritates parents, because now their kids can’t go to the parks, and if there’s nowhere for the kids to go, then they’re stuck at home, and parents are calling and complaining that we kicked their kids out of the park.”

Musolff said the police department needs the help of people in Shawano. Because many of these incidents aren’t happening in the early morning hours before sunrise, Musolff said it’s possible there are people living near or walking adjacent to the parks who might be seeing some of the vandalism and crimes taking place. If so, they should report things to the police, he said.

“We’re just hoping for people to keep a better eye as they’re walking through, or give us a call,” Musolff said. “We have nice parks, and we want to keep them nice. They’re beautiful. A lot of work has been put into them, and some people are just deciding they don’t like it, apparently.”

A lot of the calls are around Memorial Park, Musolff noted, although the Naberhood Plaza, Smalley Park and Franklin Park are also seeing some mayhem. There’s concern that Kuckuk Park could be targeted with the new playground equipment that was installed.

“If we can get the community to step up and help, because they see things we don’t, especially those that live in the area, it would be good,” Musolff said.

He added that patrol officers will be approaching anyone in the park in the evening, so parents shouldn’t worry — unless their child is committing a crime.

“Most of the time, you can find out a lot of stuff that way, too, a lot of information on what’s going on,” Musolff said.

The police department is encouraging parents to have conversations with their children, especially those that are teens, and explain why damaging the parks has consequences, as well as encouraging them to report any suspicious activity at the parks.

“We want people in the parks, but we don’t want damage in the parks,” Musolff said. “If you’re going to behave, come on down. If you’re not going to behave, we don’t want you there.”

Anyone who sees suspicious activity can call the police department’s non-emergency number, 715-526-6117.