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Vandergrift looks to counsel, not just prosecute, vandals

posted May 21, 2018, 4:36 AM by Joseph Gray

      

Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review

Coming up

Who: Vandergrift's Community Watch

What: Meeting on dealing with solutions to youth vandalism

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Vandergrift borough building, 109 Grant Ave. Vandergrift, Pa. 15690

Details: Facebook page “It's your community Vandergrift"


Rather than focus on punishment for juveniles throwing rocks at cars and other vandalism, Vandergrift's Community Watch is asking residents to help at-risk local youth.

The public is invited to the Community Watch meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the borough building, 151 Lincoln Ave.

The meeting will feature the Westmoreland County Youth Commission, which promotes intervention and community volunteers to mentor at-risk youth.

“We want residents to know that there's more out there besides catching and fining the kids,” said Marilee Kessler, a Vandergrift resident and coordinator of Community Watch, an effort led by borough police and the Vandergrift Improvement Program.

There has been a spate of youth vandalism and other nonviolent crimes in the past few months, according to Vandergrift police Officer Joe Gray.

“These are isolated incidents involving a small group,” he said. “The kids of Vandergrift are really good kids,” Gray added.

• Kids throwing rocks at cars on East Vandergrift Lane in the last two weeks. No one has been injured, but cars have been damaged. Police are investigating.

• Spray-paint graffiti, mostly nondescript, in more than a dozen locations in Vandergrift, East Vandergrift and Apollo. Police solved the case as some of the suspects spray-painted their own names. Four teenage boys were cited and fined for criminal mischief.

• Police have identified three boys breaking a bench in Kennedy Park as the action was caught on a video camera. They have not cited them yet, according to Gray.

“There is a small group of kids who feel that they don't have to answer to anyone and they're frustrated and kind of having fun,” said Kessler, whose garage door was spray-painted by one of the vandals.

“People try to keep their properties nice and kids don't seem to understand,” she said.

Kessler who is a Realtor, added, “if there's a lot of vandalism, people will think twice about wanting to relocate here, she said.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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