Every summer, without fail, we see signs of vandalism, small theft, and mischief in Springfield. There are reports of more serious crimes, too, like burglary, DUI, and larger retail thefts, but we are apt to hear of those at any time of the year. It's the smaller, nuisance crimes, that seem to escalate once summer is in full force—particularly in August. And largely, it seems to be the actions of youth. Some could say it is a sign of teen boredom. It's time for the structure of school to begin once again. As they used to say, "an idle mind is the devil's workshop."

We're used to seeing houses egged, flower pots shattered, or cars soaped. One summer, we were witness to reports of several homes being hit with cooking oil.

But as destructive and costly as these might be, the things we read about now are worse than in previous summers. This week we read about three lawn turfings, kids as young as 14 breaking into an air pump for coins at 3 a.m., and graffiti with blue and gold spray paint on poles, benches, fences in Williams Park, and businesses on Saxer Avenue, not to mention items stolen from several cars (all with doors unlocked).

Could the rise in criminal behavior and mischief among teens and young adults (assuming this is the age group largely responsible, as is confirmed in some cases) be due to the fact that many young people are more idle now than in previous years? Could it be due to the lack of summer jobs? Many teens were jobless this summer, though not for the lack of trying. Summer jobs are just not as plentiful as years ago. The jobs that were once open to a lot of the kids—like cashiers, clerks, fast food workers, waiters and bus boys— are now filled with adults that are forced to take anything they can after being laid off from other full time jobs. This leaves our youth even more idle than before, come August when the summer days are waning. And of course, boredom sets in

Yes, times are tough, as we are now quite aware. But it's no excuse for some of the downright criminal behavior we see today. Who can try to explain what goes on the mind of kids when, out in a group, tend to be up to 'no good.' But there are some things we, as citizens, can do to curb some of the mischief.

First, there is a curfew, and it's up to parents to know where their minor children are after hours. Why is a 14-year-old kid out at 3 a.m.? Who is out and about 'overnight' with spray paint cans making smiley faces all over town? And who is turfing lawns in the middle of the night, unnoticed until the morning hours? It certainly isn't the work of a responsible adult.

Yes, we need to be more diligent of our kids, but also more watchful of our properties. Use motion detector lights on lawns. Ask your neighbor to keep an eye on your property when you vacation. Don't vacation and leave your minor teen home alone and 'in charge', even for a weekend. Sometimes it's just asking for trouble.

And once again, we stress, lock your car doors—even when you are parking them in your driveway. (It seems kind of embarrassing to report to police that valuables were stolen from your unlocked car—it's like you were leaving an invitation for someone to take what's there. ) Call 911 if you see or hear suspicious activity in the middle of the night—or any time of the day.

As citizens, we are responsible for trying to stop some of the destructive behavior we see in town. And the first line of defense is in your own home—with your own kids and your own property.

Donna McCole


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