Residents near the Carrie Street Park are under siege.
For years, they have been regularly attacked by children who have broken every window in one house, twice destroyed a private pool and are now stripping a shed of its shingles, which they are using as weapons to throw at other houses.
Desperate residents said they have repeatedly called police in recent years, but that officers often arrived far too late to catch the miscreants.
But now police are making the situation a priority.
On Wednesday, Police Chief Brian Kilcullen told Director of Operations William Winkler that he would send more officers to the park and focus on the problem.
Winkler is also looking into the logistics of getting a camera installed at the park. That might help police catch the children. And the mere presence of a camera could encourage children to behave, he said.
“One of the things that is a deterrent is a camera itself,” he said. “Eventually, it is the intent that the city be cameraed. The entire city. They are a very good deterrent.”
barbed wire ruled out
The nearby Bureau of Service, which abuts the park on one side, has barbed wire at the top of its fence, which stops children from climbing onto city property. Residents asked the city’s codes department for permission to put barbed wire at the top of their fences too, but city officials rejected their request.
Winkler said barbed wire is not allowed because it could lead to “awful” injuries.
“I’m sure kids would try it,” he said, adding that some methods of deterrence aren’t a good idea.
“Like kids walking in the street — you want them to stop, but you can’t deter them by hitting them,” he said.
park closure sought
Resident Lynn Ragozzino simply wants the park closed.
“This park is killing me,” she said.
From her neighbor’s shed, children have managed to throw a Price Chopper cart into her pool, she said. They’ve also lofted a pair of wooden barriers, labeled “property of the city of Schenectady,” and tossed in diapers.
But the worst is the shingles from the shed.
The sharp edges of the broken shingles have ripped her pool liner again and again. She patched, then repatched. Twice, she’s had to put in a new liner — spending $12,000 so far. The second time, last week, the liner workers weren’t even done with the job when children began to throw more shingles into the pool.
She and the workers had stepped inside for a few minutes while they waited for the pool to begin to fill with water, an essential step before the liner can be stretched into place. When they came out, there were shingles everywhere.
Stunned, Ragozzino took photos of the vandalism.
“Not even 15 minutes and the shingles were in the pool,” she said. “How much money do I have to spend to close this park because it’s unsupervised?”
She and other neighbors have called police repeatedly. Once, she called when a child perched on the shed threw rocks at her 80-year-old mother, who was swimming in the pool. On another occasion, she called to say the children had climbed off the shed and were breaking into her neighbor’s house.
Part of the trouble is that her neighbor’s house is vacant. The owners died, and their son now owns the house but does not live there.
After children threw rocks at the house, breaking every window, he put in new windows and covered them with chicken wire. That has protected the windows, but his other attempt to stop the children was not successful. He covered a shed with a tarp, thinking it would be too slippery for the children to climb.
Ragozzino said she’s watched the children lift each other to help each other get to the top of the tarp.
She thinks the solution is supervision.
“We had a park attendant who controlled things,” she said of her childhood. “Close the park if you’re not going to have a park attendant. It’s not safe.”
Others on the street had similar complaints — but hesitated to directly confront the children. When Ragozzino’s mother was nearly hit by a rock recently, she got out of the pool and calmly told the child on the shed that she should get down before she fell.
The girl swore at her.
Ragozzino was shaken by the incident. She wants the city to solve the problem before someone gets hurt.
“I’ve been dealing with this for 10 years. I’ve called every mayor, for 10 years. Every police chief. I’ve talked to everyone,” she said. “That’s not the first rock, or the second, or the third. I just don’t know where to go or who to turn to.”