Vandals spray-painted several vehicles and houses in New Windsor in an overnight spree that left residents wondering how they can prevent more incidents, the mayor and several residents said.
"Older people here are scared to call police," said Tony Ferace, owner of New Windsor Automotive Specialties and a victim of the most recent string of incidents. "They are afraid of retribution."
Mr. Ferace said town residents believe that a few juveniles are responsible for the latest destructive activities, which began about 1:30 a.m. June 11.
Several homes, 16 vehicles, street signs and lampposts were sprayed with black and gold paint. Ball fields, bleachers and portable toilets at a park in town also were damaged.
"Kids just went through town Saturday night and did the worst damage we have ever seen," Mr. Ferace said. "Cars and houses were painted with vulgar language and scribbling."
Five vehicles that Mr. Ferace was customizing on his lot were damaged. It will cost about $3,000 to repaint and repair them, he said -- costs he must pay unless he wants increased insurance premiums.
Police sent several juveniles home from the New Windsor Carnival June 10 after a fight broke out, Mr. Ferace said. Although the town has an 11 p.m. curfew on weekends, the teens did not stay home.
One resident, who requested anonymity, said she was awakened by a group of teen-agers on Green Valley Road about 1:30 a.m. June 11. The juveniles overturned planters and shouted obscenities, she said.
Across the street, exterior lights were pulled from the walls at the mayor's office.
"The police know who did this, but their hands are tied by Juvenile Services," said Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr.
On Main Street, vandals painted "legalize drugs" and a peace sign on the sidewalk and wrote obscenities on a lamppost. They also sprayed paint on Fire Department signs.
The same night, someone broke into the new New Windsor Middle School, also on Green Valley Road.
"The new middle school had a broken window in the back" but no other damage, said Principal Jeff Kimble. "They got in [the exercise room], which had boxes of books and things teachers had packed up. Nothing that would interest them, I guess."
State police said they are investigating the incidents, but have not established a connection between the school break-in and the vandalism.
"Nobody has been charged and we are developing evidence," said Tfc. Edwin M. Humphries.
Police have made no arrests.
Mr. Ferace said summer vacation will mean an increase in such crimes.
"These children have no supervision," Mr. Ferace said. "They have no pride in themselves or their community. They need help, but they aren't getting it. Maybe, the police should think about putting their parents in jail."
In the past, police have arrested juvenile offenders, but Juvenile Services takes over at that point and the offenders have not been charged with criminal offenses.
"The police are really doing their job, but these kids are back on the streets in a matter of hours," Mr. Ferace said. "In just a few years, this town has gone from the quietest to the one with the most problems."
At Mr. Ferace's request, Republican state Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson visited the town Monday. He said Friday he can see that the town's hands are tied.
"The town may want to pass its own ordinance so they have the authority to do something," Mr. Ferguson said. "These kids are ruining the town that is their home. This problem is not New Windsor's fault. It lies solely on the shoulders of the violators."