Interim Police Chief Tom McAndrew said if a vandal is caught in the act, an officer will file criminal charges, “but we don’t pan over it or anything like that” since that’s not the responsibility of the OPD.
Graffiti has been a problem in Ottumwa for years, he said.
While the acronym for a gang, “N.W.O.” or “New World Order,” was spray-painted on one side of the park’s restroom, McAndrew said there’s no way to tell if it was actually gang-related.
“We’ve had past instances where a young kid gets a hold of a spray paint can and paints a bunch of graffiti that’s gang-type stuff, but he isn’t really a member of that gang,” he said. “Other times it is gang members. We’ve got to treat it on a case-by-case basis.”
Since Rathje began his position as parks director five years ago, he said graffiti has been an off-and-on problem.
“It seems like it happens in spurts, especially in the spring and fall,” he said. “Graffiti is not that much out of the ordinary in park systems all over the U.S., it’s just worse here for some reason.”