Vandals sweep through Glenwood |

Vandals sweep through Glenwood

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Vandals sprayed “God is Dead” and a pentagram in red paint at a church in Glenwood Springs on Friday, the same night of several car break-ins in the same neighborhood.Police chief Terry Wilson said it is a “distinct possibility” the same people might be responsible for both the spray painting and break-ins.The vandalism is the latest of more than a half-dozen reported incidents at the new church building in the three and a half years since St. Stephen’s moved there from downtown. Last May, a fountain at the church was knocked over and broken, causing several thousand dollars in damage.On Friday night, vandals wrote “God is Dead” on the church doors, marked the occult pentagram symbol on a coat of arms etched in concrete and sprayed the face of a statue of Mary red.The paint since has been removed.Wilson said at least four vehicles were broken into within a few blocks of the church the same night, at least one by force, and a few items were reported missing. In the case of two vehicles targeted on the 1700 block of Bennett Avenue, items had been spread around, but only some change was taken and a stereo was left on a seat, suggesting the culprits may have been spooked and left in a hurry, Wilson said.Wilson found the vandalism at the church disturbing.”To me that’s a really nasty thing to do. To go to someone’s place of worship and do something like that is really wrong,” he said. “It begs the question: Parents, do you know where your children are?”Wilson said police were busy over the weekend dealing with trespassing, drinking, and in one case violating probation, all while out late at night. He doesn’t have reason to believe any of them were responsible for the crimes involving the church or vehicles. However, he and other city officials think young people may be largely responsible for a continuing problem of graffiti in Glenwood.In an e-mail Monday, St. Stephen’s parishioner Chris McGovern alerted fellow City Council members about the vandalism at the church. She also suggested updating council at its meeting Thursday about the city’s efforts to contact retailers that sell spray paint to see if they have policies restricting their sales to youths.Wilson said he is continuing to talk to store representatives. About half of those contacted so far have such policies in place to address concerns about both graffiti and “huffing” of paint as a form of substance abuse. Chain stores in particular often have nationwide policies, he said.”Overall I’m encouraged because we’re getting a really good response and a very supportive response from all of our businesses in town that do have spray paint available,” he said.He said some retailers also want to lock up paint to further restrict access, but that may violate fire codes, something he plans to investigate.The city began looking into restricting spray paint sales to youths at the urging of Councilman Joe O’Donnell. However, O’Donnell said Monday that it wouldn’t do much good if only Glenwood adopted the restrictions but the paint was available elsewhere.”It almost has to be a joint thing throughout the whole valley,” he said.The city is continuing to move forward with plans to create a graffiti reporting hot line so quicker cleanup could discourage vandals.Glenwood doesn’t have any curfew for youths. Wilson said the police department proposed one perhaps a dozen years ago, before he became chief, and it resulted in police being characterized as “jackbooted Nazis and things of that nature.”So it wasn’t well-received,” he said.From strictly a law enforcement standpoint, a curfew might be beneficial, he said.”On the other hand, I would hate to think that we would need something like that.”He said most youths out late at night don’t do anything wrong.”But it does beg the question of how are we supposed to, I guess, sort out who is committing crimes and who isn’t,” he said.Wilson has seen a few efforts over the years to open teen centers as a place to hang out at night. He said they suffered from a lack of use.In addition, he said, “They got vandalized so bad by the kids going in there at night that they went out of business.”