Holley looks for community’s help in targeting vandalism

Photos by Tom Rivers: Holley Mayor Mark Bower speaks on Tuesday evening during a town hall meeting focused on vandalism in the village. Police Chief Bob Barton is in back.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 April 2023 at 11:58 am

HOLLEY – Village officials are asking for the public’s help to target graffiti in the community, whether at village-owned sites or on private property.

‘This is a team effort,” Holley Police Chief Bob Barton said on Tuesday evening during a town hall meeting on vandalism in the village. “We do this together. You are our eyes and ears.”

Holley runs a small police department that can’t be everywhere at once. Many of the crimes often happen when it’s dark in out-of-way places, such as the Firemen’s Field on North Main Street or the canal path and the bathrooms/shower facilities at the canal park.

Mayor Mark Bower said it’s a costly problem for the village. Holley spent about $18,000 replacing fixtures that were ripped out of the bathrooms and showers, and making other repairs to the site. He is committed to opening it for the canal and summer season, but he said he remains concerned for the frequent vandalism at the site.

The bathrooms/shower facility along the canal are frequent targets of vandalism. Mayor Mark Bower said it cost about $18,000 to repair ripped out fixtures and other vandalism. The site will reopen soon. The gazebo in back also has been damaged in the past by vandals.

Holley will have security cameras outside the bathrooms and gazebo area, and some other spots that are often damaged by vandals.

The mayor led the town hall meeting on the issue. He wants to make the public aware of the problem, take their ideas and ask them to help with reducing the problem.

Chief Barton said the department is somewhat hamstrung in combating the problem since the state “raised the age” from 16 to 18 for people to be tried as adults for crimes. Many juveniles go largely unpunished for the crimes, including at 16- and 17-year-olds, Barton said.

The Holley police has arrested several juveniles for vandalism and thefts, and has done search warrants. That has deterred some of the activity, but Barton expects it will increase once it’s summer and school lets out.

Police Chief Bob Barton urged residents to report suspicious activity. He said many frequently hit areas are out of the public eye including along the canal path and the Firemen’s Field off North Main Street.

He and his officers try to patrol all the streets in an 8-hour shift. They try to build relationships with residents.

“The more police presence you have, the less likely juveniles will commit crimes,” Barton said.

He acknowledged the department is short-staffed and there are some open shifts. Lewis Passarell, a former Holley mayor and police chief, said officers aren’t patrolling enough. He thinks they also are called outside the village too often to help with mutual aid.

Village Trustee Jim DeFilipps, a retired Sheriff’s deputy, said the Sheriff’s Office provides more backup and assistance to Holley than the village does for calls outside Holley.

Some of the residents at the meeting suggested either official neighborhood watch organizations or an unofficial network of residents who walk the streets and the canal paths. They could report suspicious activity and also try to form more friendly relationships with youths.

Barton said the village isn’t being overrun with crime. He said a very small percentage causes most of the problems.

Barton worked 20 years full-time with the Town of Greece Police Department before joining the Holley Police Department in August 2008. He said many communities, large and small, deal with vandalism caused by youths.

The big change for law enforcement is the change in “Raise the Age,” he said.

“I can tell you this, the problems we have in Holley are not unique to Holley,” Barton said. “This is universal. But that doesn’t mean we accept it and do nothing about it.”

Mayor Bower said he doesn’t want to use vandalism as an excuse not to push forward with projects. He would like to see artistic murals and a splash park in Holley, but some have voiced concern those projects would be vandalized.

Bower said he is planning another town hall meeting in October focused on property maintenance. During that meeting he will provide an update on vandalism.