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Sometime Monday morning, the alley between the Owen County County Clerk’s office and The News-Herald office, and the Owen County Post Office were painted with racially-charged graffiti. Police officer Tony Stigers said the paint primer used in the graffiti was stolen from supplies used to repair the courthouse.
Mayor David “Milkweed” Wotier said this most recent crime is a symbol of a larger criminal problem in the city. At the September city council meeting, he said that several unlocked cars had been robbed. The robberies took place on many city streets including Green Acres Road.
Investigations into these crimes are currently under way. Stigers said his best guess is that the graffiti was done by young adults, although their identity is not yet known.
He said law enforcement and the city council are working together to find a solution to the increase in crime. All of the options will be presented at the next city council meeting on Oct. 7, where a final decision will be made.
One option is to change the curfew in the city to an earlier time. Wotier said there are too many children out on the streets late at night. He said parents need to know where their children are and what they are doing. He said the best solution starts in the home.
Stigers said the current curfew for youth under the age of 17 is midnight Sunday through Thursday and 1 p.m. on the weekends. He said when they find a teenager out past curfew, they take them into the police station and call their parents. The case is then referred to a Court Designated Worker (CDW). It is the CDW’s responsibility to work with the family.
Woiter said the city is drafting a law that would make parents responsible for their children’s actions. He hopes increasing the punishment for juvenile crime will lower the crime rate.
“Maybe the parents will start paying attention when they start getting fines and potentially jail time,” Stigers said. “It is not our job to raise your kids.”
Wotier believes that if the juvenile crime problem is not controlled, it will only get worse. He said the law enforcement officials have seen the beginnings of gangs. He said children are being led down the wrong path.
Stigers said he has been seeing groups of people displaying gang-related colors. He said the groups started forming about two years ago.
“When people think of gangs, they think of problems much worse than vandalism,” Woiter said. “We have to nip this in the bud before it gets worse.”