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News photo by Steve Schulwitz A group of teenagers play basketball on the new basketball courts near Alpena Skate Park. After recent vandalism, the new courts have a special surface and new boards and hoops.

ALPENA – Vandalism and theft are a common occurrence in Alpena, but new technology is making it easier for police to track down perpetrators.

From spraying graffiti on buildings and infrastructure to destroying private and public property, vandals often cause damage for no particular reason.

In a community like Alpena, vandalism is costly and causes police to shift away from investigating more serious crimes and instead focus on solving a crime that may be a misdemeanor.

There have been several headline-grabbing acts of vandalism in Alpena in recent weeks: the vandalism of the new basketball courts near the skate park and one of the elaborate flower displays in front of the Sanctuary Cinema during last weekend’s Flower Festival.

The damage to the basketball court occurred in mid-May and has already been repaired and the damaged equipment replaced.

Courtesy of Photo: In this screenshot from surveillance video, two women appear to steal a floral arrangement early Sunday morning. Alpena police are searching for the women and are asking the public for help in identifying them.

Regarding the floral decoration, police have released a photo of the two women who were filmed stealing the decoration from the theater and are asking the public for help in identifying them.

Alpena Police Chief Eric Hamp said police are investigating the damage to the basketball courts as well as the damage and theft of the floral decorations. He said vandalism in Alpena primarily consists of graffiti or minor damage, but from time to time major damage is done.

Hamp said he does not believe there has been an increase in vandalism, but police will be alert to suspicious behavior and new locations where vandalism occurs.

“Unfortunately, it’s not unusual, but I don’t think we’re seeing a wave of vandalism right now,” Hamp said. “It’s unfortunate when it happens, but it happens. But we’re not being overrun by vandalism all over the city.”

Hamp said a person who commits an act of vandalism should expect to be tracked down and possibly arrested and charged with crimes such as criminal damage and possibly theft if something is stolen, as was the case with the floral decoration. He said with the development of new security systems, it is difficult for someone to destroy something and get away with it.

“We’re at the point now where in most cases they’re caught on video, and of course video evidence is very helpful when it comes to prosecution and identifying suspects,” he said. “Today there are doorbells with surveillance cameras built in and lots of ways people can protect their businesses and homes, so it’s hard to get away with it.”

Movie theater owner Jeff Konczak said millions of dollars are being invested in Alpena to expand the theater and create a community that residents are proud of and that visitors enjoy returning to. He said crimes such as vandalism and theft can give the community a bad reputation and make people think twice about spending money on future developments and events.

“It’s just stupid,” he said.

Hamp said Alpena police patrol around the clock and officers are always on the lookout for suspicious behavior. He said in a city the size of Alpena, police rely on tips or reports from residents to follow up on them.

“If you notice anything unusual or out of the ordinary, call,” he said. “The school is out now, there are more people in town, and when there are more people, the chances of something happening increase. People should also remember to lock their cars and their homes. They should take appropriate measures to protect themselves and their property.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter

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