Vandals target Racine children's playground with hateful graffiti

RACINE - An ugly graffiti attack happened on a children's playground in Racine over the weekend when vandals used black and red spray paint to write hateful messages.

It happened at the Kids Cove playground next to North Beach. The playground was built in 2003 completely by volunteers.

City crews responded early Monday morning to remove the messages and inappropriate drawings before any children could see them. The graffiti showed up on benches, slides, walls, plaques and two paintings.

"This is sad," said Tony Perales with the Racine Parks and Recreation Department. "It's been hit before, but this is the worst I've ever seen it."

Bob Oertel helped lead the effort to build the playground back in 2003.

"We had something over 2,500 people come and work," he said.

He said they contacted a New York agency to help with the design and engineering and the community donated more than $300,000 to get it built.

With all of the community help, the playground was built in about seven days.

Oertel says he's dealt with vandalism in the past, and has even chased teenagers out of the park when he catches them trying to destroy stuff. But he says he's never seen it this bad.

"It's not nice stuff and you’re messing up your environment for anybody else who wants to use this area," he said.

Local students did most of the art work including two large panels that used to show a beach scene. The vandals spray painted over a majority of the panels and Oertel says the graffiti likely can't be removed without destroying the art.

"If they do ever find out who did this, I would think part of the penalty ought to be 10,000 hours of community service, maybe building playgrounds someplace," said Oertel.

Neighbors also showed up to help out on Monday when they heard about the damage.

"This is more than just hate. They're stomping on everyone's hard work around here," said Ryan Lafave, who has lived in Racine for 40 years. "This is a community built park, everyone chipped in for this."

Oertel says after what happened, they're strongly considering installing surveillance cameras at the park but have to figure out the logistics of how that would work.

 

Racine Police say the are aware of and investigating the incident. Anyone with information should contact police.

 

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