FANWOOD — Borough officials condemned last week’s graffiti incident at the Nature Center and pledged increased vigilance to stem the recent wave of vandalism at borough parks that culminated in last week’s episode.
Police Director Michael Bramhall spoke at Monday’s borough council meeting and said his department was “offended and appalled” by the graffiti — including the slurs “n*****,” “k***” and “f*****” — that was etched into the metal handrail of one of the newly-installed footbridges soon after their installation. The June 12 incident, which is being investigated as a bias crime, was the latest in a string of vandalism incidents that have hit the nature center, La Grande Park and the skate park at Forest Road Park in recent months.
Calling the incidents “significant acts of vandalism” that his department is “taking very seriously,” Mr. Bramhall said his officers were apologetic that they had been unable to catch the perpetrators. He said that during 2023 so far, officers have inspected Forest Road and La Grande Parks more than 300 times each, and in June alone, more than 50 inspections have been done at the nature center.
He said that cameras have been installed at the three facilities and more are planned. Citing research showing that “this type of vandalism is typically carried out by young men ages 13 to 17,” Mr. Bramhall said his department is focusing its anti-vandalism efforts on the middle schools and high school and that parents of students are being informed that the police have a “zero-tolerance policy” when it comes to vandalism and any destruction of public or private property.
Councilwoman Kathy Mitchell on Monday spoke in personal terms about the graffiti incident, saying it was “very upsetting and very hurtful.” She asked rhetorically, “Where is the outrage?,” noting that there “hasn’t been very much outrage” on social media and elsewhere. She compared it to the number of comments on social media and at council meetings last year when the governing body was considering a ban on dogs in borough parks. Last week’s graffiti incident, she said, was “much more detrimental to our community.”
In other business, Chief Financial Officer Patricia Celardo explained some of the reasons why this year’s sewer utility bills have increased to a base rate of $115. She said the cost of disposing of sewage from Fanwood to the treatment center in Middlesex County has increased, as have the expenses involved in maintaining the borough’s sewer infrastructure. This year’s bills were based on water usage in the 12 months of 2022, and federal Covid-related subsidies that helped keep last year’s rates unchanged have since expired, she said.
The annual “Party in the Park” will take place next Tuesday evening, June 27, at La Grande Park and the annual “Summer Fan Jam” will be held at La Grande Park on the afternoon of Sunday, July 9.