Dick DeGray stands by one of the vandalized flower beds by the Creamery Bridge in Brattleboro. Vandals dumped around $600 worth of newly planted flower
Dick DeGray stands by one of the vandalized flower beds by the Creamery Bridge in Brattleboro. Vandals dumped around $600 worth of newly planted flower beds into the river shortly after DeGray had finished arranging them. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)
Monday July 22, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Dick DeGray is not ready to give up yet.

DeGray and his wife, Missy Galanes, helped raise money, and donated additional cash and time, for planters on Citizens Bridge off of Route 9 in West Brattleboro.

One day last week he was disheartened to find that someone had torn out the flowers and dumped the linings and some planters down in the Whetstone Brook which runs underneath the bridge.

But he's not ready to walk away and let whoever vandalized the flower plantings think they can destroy community support and work so easily.

"I would just like to talk to whoever did this, and ask them what they were trying to achieve. What was the goal?," he said. "At some point you just hope against hope that these people will realize what they're doing and see how they are hurting people."

DeGray said he and Galanes spent about $650 purchasing liners and flowers for the bridge and he wants to gather donations now to get the plantings back in place, even though he knows it is hard to stop vandals from destroying them again.

"People notice them. When I'm out watering people stop and thank me," DeGray says. "And when visitors see this it says positive things about our community. An attractive community attracts others to it. Appearance counts."

The vandalism on Citizens Bridge is just the most recent example of senseless crime that seems to plague Brattleboro from time to time.


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Other plantings on Main Street have been destroyed and earlier this month a number of cars, and a residence, on Pine Street were damaged by spray paint.

Brattleboro Police Lt. Bob Kirkpatrick said summer tends to be a busier time for vandals.

The warmer weather means more people are out at night and while Kirkpatrick could not pin the most recent events on youth, random property damage is often linked to teenagers who are out of school and have more time on their hands.

"A lot of things usually come into play with these incidents," he said. "Someone's home life, or drugs and alcohol, or maybe someone is just having a bad day and wants to take it out on someone. I don't understand the mindset of someone who would do this."

Don Chapin, who lives on Pine Street, said the recent rash of vandalism left him and his neighbors concerned about their property and neighborhood, and about the town as a whole.

"All the residents of Brattleboro should be aware of what is going on," he said. "I am afraid every morning of what I am going to find when I wake and take inventory of my property. I am saddened about what has become of our beautiful town."

More than a dozen cars were damaged one night on Pine Street and a home was spray painted.

Chapin wants people all over town to know what happened and maybe work toward finding a solution to the problem.

"I tend to mind my own business and don't get involved with things that don't concern me, but I certainly think all this should be brought to the attention of the residents of Brattleboro," Chapin said. "We need to let the perpetrators know that people are aware and are not happy with the whole thing."

Kirkpatrick said he has been working in Brattleboro 23 years and the problem is no better, or worse, than it has been in the past.

He said all sorts of crime tends to spike in the warmer weather and he says it can be hard for the police, with their limited resources, to follow up on every call.

But at the same time Kirkpatrick said the department treats all crime reports seriously and he said it is important that people whose property has been damaged feel like their calls for help are being addressed.

And he said the police rely on people to keep their eyes open and to report anything suspicious they might come upon.

Kirkpatrick said vandalism is a deeply-rooted problem that requires people all over town to work together to solve and prevent.

"Before you can go forward with a case you have to develop probable cause and you have to have an eyewitness who is willing to come forth and say they saw something," he said. "We rely on the community. It is not just the police who can solve this. It takes the whole community to work together."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.