Vandalism not out of control, says Nevada City
Not everyone was ringing the alarm bell about vandalism in Nevada City Friday, despite a city councilman’s assertions.
Friday morning Nevada City councilman Steve Cottrell said in an Other Voices opinion column in The Union that Nevada City’s quality of life is being harmed not by development or traffic, but by marauding bands of hooligans.
“I believe the biggest quality of life issue facing our community right now is the escalation of petty (and sometimes not so petty) vandalism and destruction of private property by a small group of hooligans hell-bent on committing senseless crimes against people they don’t even know,” wrote Cottrell.
While one merchant agreed with Cottrell’s column, city officials studying the issue say they haven’t seen a rise in vandalism in the historic city.
“There’s nothing out of hand, out of control I can find so far,” said Police Chief Lou Travato.
Travato began going through two years worth of reports a week ago, looking for vandalism. So far, he has seen no trends and no rise in vandalism. Police had not received any calls Friday in response to Cottrell’s article.
“Vandalism goes up, vandalism goes down, but it’s not out of control,” said Travato.
City Manager Mark Miller said he started talking with Travato about whether there was a problem after Cottrell said he was concerned about the issue. Cottrell could not be reached for comment.
There have been some incidents – windows broken out, car mirrors broken, houses hit with paint pellets or eggs, but every city has some vandalism, noted Travato. It’s hard to prevent someone from smashing a mailbox or knifing their lover’s tires after a spat.
Miller agrees, saying Nevada City doesn’t have graffiti and vandalism like some other towns.
“I’ve worked for a number of small towns and I’m impressed with the lack of graffiti and vandalism in town,” said Miller.
If anything, officials say the city is cleaner after an ordinance was passed six months ago prohibiting alcohol consumption without a permit.
Public Works Director Verne Taylor said graffiti peaked two years ago. But now he won’t see any graffiti cleanup duty for a month or more. And the number of bottles that city crews pick up from Callahan Park has dwindled from 100 or more a morning, to five or 10.
Still, one merchant seemed disturbed by the angry mood and profanity she experienced outside her Commercial Street shop late at night when she was called out because someone broke her window – a crime that has occurred three times in the last year at her shop. In one case, the culprit came forward on his own and made good on the repair.
“There’s a real rowdy, angry feeling,” said Stuey Weills, owner of the Gray Goose. “I’m sure it’s not every night.”
Another business owner said the establishment’s front door window was broken two times in 10 days just before the first of the year.
Cathy Whittlesey, executive manager of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, said she hasn’t heard of complaints from merchants about any vandalism.
Councilman Tom Balch said he didn’t know if there has been a rise in vandalism, and would wait to hear what the police chief has to say.
A couple of people have told Balch they have seen people hanging out on the streets again, which they didn’t like.
“If there’s action to take, we’ll take it,” said Balch.
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