Community

In a city park, vandalism is inevitable.

“I hate to tell people, ‘Yes we plan on spending money on vandalism,'” said Marty Storch, deputy director of Louisville Metro Parks.

Since 2010, vandals have caused more than $400,000 in damages at Louisville parks and community centers, according to data provided by Metro Parks.

The total estimated cost of vandalism repairs peaked in 2010 at nearly $135,000, according to the data. It’s been on the decline since then, but 39 reported vandalism events this year have already led to about $43,000 in estimated costs to the city.

A few costly events can quickly ramp up the total cost of the damages, Storch said. This year, parks have spent more than $10,000 to repair a broken water fountain, a damaged turf and a spot of graffiti, the data shows.

One recent incident drew city-wide attention. Earlier this month, broken glass and debris in the Algonquin Park swimming pool led to park officials shutting the pool down for nearly a week to address the vandalism. The estimated cost of the damage was nearly $8,000.

Storch said Metro Park employees worked quickly to address the issue, which included draining nearly 650,000 gallons of water.

“We don’t want the kids to be punished for the actions of others,” he said.

100 Vandalism Incidents Per Year

From graffiti to air conditioners torn apart for copper, Metro Louisville’s parks have an average of about 100 vandalism reports each year, according to the data.

The reports include:

  • At least 17 sinks destroyed since 2010, resulting in nearly $8,000 in damage.
  • Nearly 40 vandalized toilets costing Metro Parks almost $20,000.
  • An air conditioner gutted at the Portland Community Center in June 2010, causing nearly $20,000 in damages.
  • A large scale incident at Sylvania Community Center—in which the air conditioning unit, gutters and other property were damaged—in November 2011 caused nearly $35,000 in damages.

Sylvania Community Center, which is in southwest Louisville, has had nearly $65,000 in damages since 2010. Included among the reports are multiple destroyed air conditioning units, cracked windows and destroyed turf.

In attempts to stop vandalism, Storch said park officials work with police and neighborhood groups. Metro Parks has encouraged residents to go to the parks to keep their eyes open for anything out of the ordinary.

When vandalism happens, the responsible party is usually a small group or a single individual, Storch said.

But a much larger group will feel the impact.

A broken air conditioner means a Metro Parks facility may be without cool air for months, he said.

“You would hope that people would have more respect for other people’s property,” he said.

Reports of vandalism come from every area of the city, the data shows.

Graffiti, Damage—and Stolen Trash Cans

Iroquois Park, one of the city’s largest, had the most reports of vandalism since 2010, the data shows.

“It’s a very spread out park, you have a playground, a sprayground, turf, there’s a lot of places that people can do things,” Storch said.

But vandalism happens in parks across the city, according to the data.

The most common vandalism report is graffiti, which since 2010 has led to more than $144,000 in estimated damages.

The Extreme Park near downtown Louisville is the most common park for graffiti, Storch said. Tyler Park also commonly has graffiti.

Perhaps the most unusual vandalism trend in Louisville, Storch said, is the theft of trash cans.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “We lose a lot of those.”

Storch said thieves can get up to $3 for metal trash cans. They cost Metro Parks about $10.

Vandalism often happens in Louisville less-used parks—or in busy parks during off peak hours, he said.

(The Metro Parks data does not include Waterfront Park, the Parklands or parks provided by Louisville’s suburban cities.)

Storch asked that people alert law enforcement when they see vandalism happening in a park.

“They’re all of our parks, and we need everyone’s help with preserving and protecting them,” he said.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.