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Vandalism, 'turfing' incidents are up in Murrysville

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A summer of mischief has left dozens of Murrysville property owners with steep repair bills.

Incidents of criminal mischief – most notably property damage – have increased during the past two months, police Chief Tom Seefeld said.

Seefeld said teenagers have been driving through yards and local parks, destroying property.

Such a “turfing” incident at Murrysville Community Park caused municipal officials to install a security camera after workers found overturned portable toilets, damage to park property and tire marks throughout portions of the park last month, Chief Administrator Jim Morrison said.

No part of Murrysville has been exempt, Seefeld said.

“It's anything from knocking over mailboxes, removing or pulling out landscaping lights to turfing a yard or area,” Seefeld said. “Damaging property of another person is just so irresponsible.”

Seefeld said property crimes spike during most summers, when teenagers have more downtime. But this summer has been worse than prior years.

Between Jan. 1 and July 24, police responded to 99 reports of property damage – 77 to homes, 12 to businesses and 10 to vehicles.

That's a 20-percent increase over the 82 incidents that were reported through the same period in 2013.

“The kids are on break. They really should find some other activities to get involved with,” Seefeld said. “It's been worse this year, though.”

Property crimes are difficult to prosecute he said. Often, residents don't call 911 when the incident happens – they instead wait until the next day or possibly don't report the crime at all.

Although a broken mailbox or a car driving through property might not sound to some like an emergency, Seefeld said residents should call 911 immediately if something doesn't seem right.

“We need help from residents to be our eyes and ears if they see or hear anything that's out of the norm,” Seefeld said.

“They're not bothering us – that's the job we do. I want residents to know, don't second guess themselves.”

The rash of vandalism has caused some residents to install video monitoring systems, Seefeld said. Police will review any surveillance tape that shows local property damage happening.

Seefeld said anyone caught causing property damage will face as severe of charges as possible. Criminal mischief, which is the most common charge faced from property damage, is a felony if the cost of damage exceeds $5,000. It's a misdemeanor if damage is valued above $150 or involves graffiti.

Additional charges can be filed if damage is done to a church, cemetery, school, local government building or community center.

“Unless someone sees it and calls us, it's a hard-to-prove crime,” Seefeld said.

“These teenagers are causing grief and pain for the property owner.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2365, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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