Vandalism has Melrose considering curfew

CNJ Staff Photo: Andy DeLisle
Vandals struck several targets in Melrose on July 18. A Melrose Police Department truck was one of the vehicles vandalized.

By Tonya Fennell: CNJ Staff Writer

Melrose is considering imposing a juvenile curfew in response to an overnight vandalism spree that targeted the vehicle of the town’s high school principal and several of the town’s emergency units.

Parents could be fined up to $500 if their children are unaccompanied by an adult in a public place after designated hours, according to an ordinance proposed at a July 13 Melrose Village Council.

The council will voted on the proposal at its August meeting.

The brunt of the $11,500 in damage reported July 18 was to a white 1995 model Chevrolet pickup truck owned by Melrose High School Principal James Widner. Widner said the vandals shattered every window and mirror on the truck and beat dents into the vehicle with two metal pipes he keeps in the bed of the pickup.

“There were over 70 hits to the truck,” Widner said. “It’s pretty obvious to me it was a violent crime.”

Since the vehicle is only covered by liability insurance, Widner said he will have to take out a bank loan for repairs. The principal said the incident caused emotional stress to his wife and has left him feeling angry.

“It’s not the pickup truck,” Widner said, “it’s the fact that someone could do this.”

Melrose Chief of Police Mike Trammell said two juveniles were charged in connection with the vandalism, which occurred at about 4:30 a.m. The juveniles were released to their parents, Trammell said.

Melrose Mayor Lance Pyle said the small, close-knit community responded with fear and disgust to the incident.

“I got over 25 phone calls (regarding the vandalism),” Pyle said. “In light of recent events something had to be done.”

The ordinance states parents will be responsible if a child, age 18 or under, is out from midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends or 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekdays.

“Parents have to be held accountable,” Pyle said.

Pyle said he understands some parents may be upset by the ordinance.

“I have a job to do,” he said, “so, I’m not worried because I am trying to improve this town.”

Widner has lived in Melrose for 13 years and served as high school principal for nine years.

“I grew up here and I like it here,” he said. “I think they (vandals) just don’t understand the traditions and customs of our small town.”

Trammell said the damage to Widner’s vehicle was not a random act of violence.
“It was retribution,” Trammell said, “when I looked at it (vehicle) I saw hatred.”

Trammell said the vandals also broke several windows at local businesses, shattered the windows in a police unit, vandalized a residence and scarred the windshield of a fire truck.

Pyle has asked five residents to serve on a law enforcement committee to make recommendations to the Melrose Village Council regarding local issues.

“We (Melrose) are a family,” Pyle said. “We want everyone to get involved.”

The mayor has also hired an additional law enforcement officer and spearheaded a neighborhood watch program.

“This is a community problem,” Pyle said, “and we want it stopped.”