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Date of Issue: October 18, 2007

Skate park closed due to vandalism

hb-skatepark.jpg
Locked until secure
Holmes Beach officials locked up the city's skate park last week and postponed a ceremony to name the park for the late Holmes Beach police officer Pete Lannon. Vandals forced the park's closure and the dedication's postponement, said Mayor Rich Bohnenberger. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Holmes Beach police officers last week rounded up for questioning about 10 teenagers suspected of vandalizing the city’s skateboard park on Marina Drive.

Meanwhile, the mayor and city commission are offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in anti-Semitic graffiti vandalism of a street sign.

Police officers identified the suspects in what the department is pursuing as a criminal mischief case at the skate park through tips to the Manatee County Crime Stoppers hotline, said Chief Jay Romine.

Romine, on Oct. 11, expected the department to make some arrests, but could not say whether the charges would be for misdemeanors or felonies. That, he said, would depend on the total cost of damage to the park on the night of Oct. 8.

“It may very well end up being a felony,” the chief said.

Vandals removed a metal safety railing on a ramp and tore down a sign that was later recovered.

Romine called the action “pure meanness.”

The vandalism prompted city officials to postpone a ceremony to dedicate the park to the late Holmes Beach police officer Pete Lannon, who also served as the Anna Maria Elementary School resource officer. Lannon died June 1 after a year-long struggle with pancreatic cancer and the ceremony in his honor had been set for Oct. 19, the day after a celebration honoring him at the school.

Romine said the ceremony was postponed “indefinitely” due to “extensive criminal mischief that occurred at the park during the night of Oct. 8.”

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger, working to restrain obvious anger, informed city commissioners of the damage to the park during a meeting Oct. 9.

“The skate park is closed,” he said.

The mayor also said city officials are concerned about graffiti, including the recent marking up of a street sign that contained an anti-Semitic statement.

“The punks involved need to be brought to justice,” said the mayor, adding that the sign quickly was cleaned.

Romine said the vandalism at the park and the graffiti on the sign were not directly related.

The chief also expressed a quiet anger last week over the vandalism.

“It’s just frustrating,” he said. “You give them something nice to use and there are 95 percent who do what they are supposed to do and 5 percent who don’t. I’m tired of it.”

To protect the skate park, the city will install a high-tech video surveillance system. Several companies were invited to provide estimates on the equipment last week. Romine vowed that it would not be within vandals’ reach.

Though the department has identified suspects in the case, Romine encouraged people with information about the incident at the park to contact the Holmes Beach Police Department at 941-708-5804, or call Manatee County Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS. Information that leads to an arrest could result in a $1,000 reward.