BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A reward is being offered to catch the vandals damaging Houghton Park on Buffalo's east side.
City officials have spent millions of dollars on improvements to the popular park, but neighbors in Kaisertown are crying for help to control the vandalism. Council President Richard Fontana is now reaching into his own pocket to catch the perpetrators of a weekend vandalism spree.
Vandals gutted a shelter and reduced the picnic benches to ashes. Graffiti was spray-painted on the shelter and the splash pad close by. Neighbors like Dan Wahovich are incensed.
"In the past seven years, it's gone downhill. Nobody does anything. You can come here 10, 11 o'clock at night and there are five, six kids in the pool swimming, 9-years-old, 8-years-old," Wahovich said.
But this is just the latest incident of wanton destruction at Houghton Park. The worst of it happened five years ago when three teenagers torched the Houghton Casino, causing about a half million dollars worth of damage.
Pedro Torres said, "They spent lots of money on rebuilding the park for the kids and they go and do this stuff. It's crazy. Something has got to be done."
Fontana is so fed up with the blatant disregard for city property, he is offering a reward to solve the weekend vandalism out of his own pocket.
"And it is important to know that we are going to stand up for this asset. So I'm personally putting up $200 for a reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever's responsible for burning out our shelter here at Houghton Park. Out of my own money," he said.
But will a $200 reward serve as much of a deterrent?
Wahovich said, "No, it won't make a difference. Not at all. They'll still keep doing it. It'll probably even get worse."
But Fontana says rewards have helped in the past.
"Don't forget, years ago we solved a murder in this district when I put up a reward. So rewards do work," he said.
Fontana is also calling on the Buffalo Police to increase their presence in the park and would like to see police cameras installed in the area.
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