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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Vandals are costing New Hanover County taxpayers $250,000 to $500,000 a year by damaging the county's parks.
Jim McDaniel, head of the Parks Department, said the biggest problem is with vandals stealing signs from the parks.
Every day, workers from the department check the parks. If signs were swiped, they replace them immediately.
McDaniel said they replace at least a dozen signs a week. They can cost anywhere from $25 to a few hundred bucks.
It is a public safety issue. In some cases, the signs warn folks of danger, such as the "no swimming" signs at the park near Snow's Cut.
McDaniel said they also replace the signs immediately because it deters the vandals from striking again.
The vandalism doesn't stop with signs. McDaniel said some spray paint graffiti, destroy fences or damage fields.
McDaniel said it is frustrating. For the money spent repairing parks, the department could renovate an old park or build a new one.
He said the department is getting more aggressive to catch crooks.
They have mobile cameras in the parks that are often hit. With information caught on camera, sheriff's deputies can strategically patrol the parks at times when vandals are most likely to strike.
Now, the county is working with the District Attorney's office to make sure if someone is caught damaging the parks, they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The department has also formed Park Angels and Parks Conservancy groups with volunteers who monitor the parks.
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