WESTERLY — Police are investigating two incidents of graffiti vandalism that occurred over the weekend, one at the White Rock skate park and a second in a pedestrian tunnel near the train station, and are considering a variety measures to deal with the problem.
Westerly Police Capt. Shawn Lacey, who is currently serving as head of the force in the absence of a chief, said the department has collected evidence and is following "possible leads." The police began investigating Saturday morning after separate reports were made at each location.
"There are some similarities between the two, as well as with other graffiti we have seen in town recently," Lacey said Thursday. "It's not to the level that it is happening every week, but we've seen occasional problems at both these locations in the past."
The damage at the skate park, located in the back section of the Gingerella Sports Complex off White Rock Road, included sexual terms and racist slang that were spray painted, while the graffiti in the tunnel was more of a "tagging." There were some similar characteristics, the police said.
The latest graffiti occurred two weeks after someone wrote the term "Nazi" across the side of the Clydesdale Tavern.
Lacey said the department is considering numerous possible changes to better deter future incidents. The measures could include nhanced lighting at the skate park and the installation or relocating of town-owned cameras to provide surveillance of common target areas.
"With a location like the skate park, there are a number of local skaters who have helped serve almost as caretakers for the town," Lacey said. "They noticed it first thing Saturday and reported it immediately," Lacey said. "One of the challenges, unfortunately, is that the skate park is in a remote area of the complex, blocked by rocks, and not easily visible from the road. It has made it a target."
Downtown, Lacey said the department is considering whether to relocate any of its five cameras or whether it would be beneficial to install more to help catch vandals and serve as a deterrent. He noted that businesses and the Westerly Education Center, which has surveillance near one end of the tunnel, have offered their own surveillance when incidents occur.
Lacey said fortunately the damage to this point has been graffiti only. He said the town works to make sure graffiti is immediately covered or painted over once evidence is collected.
"We take these seriously and if we determine who is responsible, they will be charged," Lacey said. "The graffiti can be disturbing to some. We want to make sure everyone in the community feels safe."