Park vandalism not a good sign for summer

Mayor Nutter surveys the fire damage to FDR Park by vandals.
Mayor Nutter surveys the fire damage to FDR Park by vandals.
Posted: June 21, 2012

In a town that has elevated retaliation to an art form, city officials and an offended community want the vandals who torched a brand new playground in FDR Park over the weekend to know they're looking for them.

Mayor Nutter, who surveyed the burned recreation equipment Tuesday, called the vandalism an "act of evil." He pledged to bring the full force of the law down on the punks who did it and to restore the playground.

An impressive list of groups and individuals have signed on to get in on the restoration part of Nutter's response to the crime, including the Fairmount Park Conservancy, Friends of FDR Park, Packer Park Civic Association, local real estate saleswoman Barbara Capozzi, and the Eagles.

Vandals set the fire Sunday evening. Destroyed were a jungle gym, a wheelchair-accessible glider, a pair of shade trees, a small climbing wall, and a rubber playing surface at the playground, which is near Pattison Avenue and Broad Street.

The $306,000 playground was only completed in October. It's unknown when repairs will be finished, but probably not this summer, which is a shame for all the kids needing easy access to recreation facilities with school out.

The vandalism underscores the cost of crime to the city, reported to have been $736 million in 2010, according to a study by the Center for American Progress.

But that figure doesn't begin to measure the pain crime victims experience. Nor, in this case, can it quantify the disappointment of the hundreds of children now denied a safe place to play in South Philadelphia's premier park.

The park vandalism is yet another sign that violence still has too strong a grip on the city's throat. Through Sunday, the city had already seen 173 homicides, which is 32 more than last year at this time. And violence typically increases with hot weather.

But murders aren't the only way to terrorize neighborhoods. Vandalism such as the FDR Park atrocity erodes residents' confidence in the city's ability to protect their community from harm. They begin to believe the criminals are in charge, so you had better not cross them.

That makes it all the more important to find the park vandals and bring them to justice. Philadelphians are known for inappropriately hitting back when they're hit. This time it's appropriate.

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