Colorado Springs park vandal caught after outdoor expert ‘Hiking Bob’ increases reward amount | Crime and justice

On September 11, John Venezia Park staff received reports that someone had tagged politically motivated rhetoric on benches, sidewalks, and other park property at some point that day. Immediately, maintenance supervisor John Weaver said they had drawn up plans to clean up the graffiti.

The next day, however, the vandal struck again, this time causing more destruction, including water fountains torn from walls and several smashed lights.

In total, city officials wrote in a September 17 Facebook post that damages were estimated at at least $16,000.

Weaver said that although the graffiti was quickly removed, parks staff are still waiting for parts to arrive to repair other parts of the park destroyed by the vandal, which Weaver said was because some of these materials were “harder to find”.

Weaver added that the damage prompted the Parks Department to close the park’s restrooms — which are usually closed for the season around the end of October — more than a month earlier.

To catch those responsible for the damage, Crime Stoppers issued a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in connection with the vandalism, which they announced in a Sept. 23 press release.

Robert “Hiking Bob” Falcone, a local journalist and outdoor expert, took particular issue with the vandalism. In an episode of his podcast released five days after the city’s Facebook post, Falcone described the vandalism as “sociopathic” and “horrific” and warned anyone to refrain from reporting those responsible.

“The level of sociopathy you have to have to think this is a good idea is just beyond me…it’s not like doing a bit of off-trail hiking, it’s nothing like that,” Falcone said in the podcast. “It’s destroying a park and destroying the enjoyment other people have of it, and to quote what our parents once told us, ‘That’s why we can’t have nice things.'”

This anger, however, did not dissipate.

Falcone, still frustrated with what he had heard about the destruction of the park and what it was to cost a month later, decided to “sweeten the pot”, matching Crime Stoppers’ donation to increase the $2,000 reward on October 12. .

Hours after the new reward was announced, a tipster called Crime Stoppers’ Anonymous Tip Line and Colorado Springs police, providing video footage showing what the vandals were wearing at the time of the crimes and “details facial,” according to the Crime Stoppers statement and police statements.

This information was relayed to Sgt. Gary Tedeschi, who was investigating the case. Information about the suspect helped police identify, track and arrest a teenager in connection with the Venezia Park vandalism, later linking them to a separate vandalism case.

Police did not identify the person arrested, saying only that she was under 18. Police also did not say whether the separate vandalism case involved city property.

Falcone, a local hiking expert who works with the Colorado Springs Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services as chair of the TOPS working committee and who publishes a weekly outdoor podcast on his website, said that he felt he had to act because this type of destruction can spiral out of control if left unchecked.

“Communities break down when people shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Well, what are you going to do?’ It encourages people who are doing these things to keep doing it,” Falcone said in a November interview with The Gazette.

“But when the community stands up and says, ‘This is not okay, and if I know something, I’m going to tell somebody,’ then people who do this stuff realize, ‘Can “Maybe I won’t get let down and maybe it’s not a good idea,” he added.

Falcone also said his involvement with the parks department meant he knew “how difficult it is” to repair city parks after this level of destruction, which helped his decision to increase the reward. .

Still, Falcone noted, the lion’s share of the credit goes to the anonymous tipster.

“The people who tipped – we can’t forget that they’re the heroes here, they actually gave the information to the police,” Falcone said. “If only ordinary citizens get involved in some way, they can hopefully send the message that if you’re going to go out and do something like that, that someone is going to see you and someone ‘one will say something.’