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Vandals target North Bend

North Bend citizens, along with North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing, held a public forum May 30 at the Mount Si Senior Center in North Bend to discuss what many see as an increasing vandalism problem in the area.

Hearing called the meeting because of the many comments he said he has received from the public recently regarding this concern.

In a community-circulated e-mail prior to the forum, Hearing stated, "Vandalism to me is everything from cigarette butts and newspapers on the sidewalk to destruction of a public restroom and each incident costs the city (and the citizens) money ... We cannot allow a few deviants to run our town."

According to Sgt. Joe Hodgson, chief of police for the King County Sheriff's Office in North Bend, the spring and summer months often see an increase in vandalism. He stated that the number of such acts reported this year is similar to the same period last year.

He called many of the vandalism crimes "crimes of opportunity" rather than premeditated, focused efforts and said the police have a profile of the suspect(s) involved in many of the incidents, but declined to elaborate.

Hodgson noted that last year around this time there was also a disproportionate number of vandalism crimes.

In 2004, the number of vandalism reports was noticeably lower.

In 2005, the spike in vandalism was due mostly to graffiti (otherwise known as "tags"), Hodgson said. When the suspects were arrested, the tagging stopped for a time. This year, he is seeing graffiti again, but the upsurge in much of the vandalism is coming from intentional property damage.

Si View Metropolitan Park District's Si View Community Center and Pool has experienced graffiti over the years, but director Jessi Richardson said the center has recently seen a surge in property damage that has not been experienced previously.

Beginning in mid-April, Si View reported to the police that door locks were broken, tires were slashed on company vehicles, outdoor vending machines were broken and there was graffiti found on the outdoor restrooms and walls surrounding the community center.

Regarding the vending machines, the center reported the first incident and Richardson said that Si View went through two additional machines in the following weeks. Now the vending machine distribution company has declined to provide another replacement for the time being.

In unreported damage, Richardson said that Si View experienced an attempted break-in of an outdoor storage area. Additionally, broken beer bottles that were flushed down the men's restroom toilet damaged the plumbing and ended up costing the center thousands of dollars in repair and labor.

Larry Rhule, who works in facility maintenance at Si View, said that due to graffiti, which often features profanity and/or terminology with an "inside" meaning, he has had to paint certain walls of the community center at least three times in the past 30 days.

"I've worked here nine or 10 years and I have never seen vandalism like this before," he said.

Si View is in the process of adding additional security measures.

North Bend Elementary School experienced a burglary over spring break in mid-April when suspect(s) reportedly entered the school after hours and proceeded to urinate and defecate on school property, including in the teacher's lounge and in a few classrooms. Three weeks ago a similar incident occurred at the school but only urine was found at the scene. The term for the incidents is "burglary" because they involved unlawfully entering a building, though nothing of value was reported stolen.

Most likely, the suspect(s) entered the school, the classrooms and lounge through unlocked windows or doors. Principal Jim Frazier said the school has since tightened security measures.

"It blows my mind that an individual would come in and do something like that," he added.

The human waste samples are currently being retained for processing, Hodgson said.

There has also been reported damage to various park fences, private property, park restrooms and more. Additionally, an airgun was found in a local park, though the incident had not been reported to police as of press time.

The police are aware of community concerns and the crimes, Hodgson said.

"We are doing something," he said, though he declined to say more.

In the meantime, Hodgson said he urges residents to keep an eye out for their neighbors, keep lights on at night (especially porch lights) and not hesitate to call 911 to report any crime, before, during or after it has occurred. Reports may be made anonymously.

"If you see something that does not look right, call 911," he said. "We make our efforts based upon what is reported ... We can't respond to crimes we don't know about."

To report suspicious incidents and/or crimes, call 911 or the King County Sheriff's Office North Bend Substation at (425) 888-4433.

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