The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Wallingford juveniles charged in fire at Doolittle Park playground
WALLINGFORD — Police say they have charged four juveniles with setting fire to the Doolittle Park playground last year that will cost almost $70,000 to repair,.
Police were called to the South Elm Street park around 11:10 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2022, for the suspicious blaze and found the playscape fully engulfed in flames. Wallingford Police Sgt. Stephen Jaques noted that small fires had been started on a basketball court and in a nearby portable bathroom as well.
The Wallingford fire marshal determined the blazes were intentionally set, according to Jaques.
The police department and fire marshal’s office conducted an investigation that resulted in the four arrests. The juveniles, who were all town residents, were each charged with first-degree criminal mischief and conspiracy to commit first-degree criminal mischief. They were assigned court dates for this month at state Superior Court of Juvenile Matters in New
Haven, Jaques said.
Jaques said the total cost to repair the playground would be about $69,000.
Police Chief John Ventura said the town also plans to install a surveillance system in the park.
“We are confident that the company that is awarded the bid will provide the system we need to ensure the safety of our community while protecting town property,” Ventura said in a statement.
Ventura said issues with juvenile behavior in the town have increased by 165 percent from this time last year.
Police have been speaking to merchants in the Center Street and Simpson Court areas, as well as the Wallingford Public Library, “who have been inundated with juveniles who are causing issues for their establishments.” Some of the issues include theft, inappropriate behavior, trespassing, vaping and “bicycles being used in a menacing manner both on and off the roadway,” according to Ventura.
The police department has increased enforcement in these areas and officers have been met with “resistance by the juveniles we have been dealing with who continually disrespect the officers assigned to address the issues,” Ventura noted.
Police are seeking to implement initiatives to address these behaviors, including a bicycle ordinance and the Wallingford Juvenile Diversion Program.
“I understand the frustration of our business community and the citizens of this town,” Ventura said. “The Wallingford Police Department is committed to addressing these juvenile issues and will do everything we can to curb the behaviors that have been plaguing the hardworking business owners who have already been through so much over the last three years.”