Throughout the last few weeks, there have been reported cases of vandalism as well as an uptick of theft of holiday lawn decorations throughout Utah. Many who are caught end up being juveniles.
No one is laughing…
What often starts as a simple prank can end up going too far. Many Utah kids find it humorous to rearrange holiday lawn decorations such as light-up deer into positions that can be seen as sexually-explicit. While the youth may think it is just a joke that can be undone in a matter of seconds, the decorations are often damaged during the prank which can be considered vandalism.
While some instances of vandalism to decorations are non-intentional, other cases are deliberate such as trashing a holiday display or slashing the inflatable Christmas décor. Not only can those responsible face charges for criminal mischief and trespassing, they risk upsetting homeowners who can then become aggressive and dangerous if they catch the vandals in the act.
Beyond the steady amount of vandalism throughout the holidays, the amount of thefts to Christmas décor and lights are growing. A large majority of the items stolen from Utah residents’ yards this year turned out to be the new LED projection lights. These lights are placed a good distance away from homes in order to illuminate as much as the house as possible, yet this puts them in a place that is at the edge of property and easy to steal.
With so many projection lights being stolen as well as decorations being vandalized, many homeowners are installing cameras to catch the thieves and vandals. Unfortunately, those who are caught frequently end up being juveniles. It is important that Utah youth understand the repercussions that can come from vandalism and theft, and are encouraged to choose other holiday activities that will not result in criminal charges.
It has been determined that jail time will not be necessary for a Utah teenager who was charged with vandalism in California last June.
Vandalism – a costly choice
18 year old Jared Vance of Provo Utah was visiting a war memorial in Danville California when he foolishly spray painted drug referenced graffiti on what was described by Danville Police as “pavement, stone paths and granite benches”. California law states that depending on the cost of the damage, vandalism can be punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony with a fine ranging between $1,000 and $50,000 along with up to a year in jail.
Discerning it as a juvenile mistake
Authorities in Danville California and board leaders of the All Wars Memorial could have thrown the book at Vance for the vandalism on a respected memorial site however they have chosen to accept a public apology, community service, and reimbursement for the graffiti removal with no expected jail time for the young graffiti artist.
Fortunate “young” adult
At 18 years old, Jared Vance likely still looks and acts like a teenager yet is considered by law to be an adult. Although there is no excuse to defacing public property, the immaturity of his actions should not result in him spending time behind bars. Fortunately, the people of Danville California recognized that and gave this young man a chance to redeem himself without jail time. The Danville Police Department, who are continually involved with or sponsoring community events such as “Recess with the Cops” and “Coffee & Cocoa with the Cops” obviously understood a juvenile mistake when they saw one.
Many teenagers and young adults are not the recipients of such understanding and grace as what was shown to young Jared Vance by the people of Danville. Not only can juveniles be punished severely for crimes, they can also be charged as adults and face time in jail. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges whether they are a teenager or an immature young adult, it is imperative to consult with a defense attorney that handles both juvenile and adult criminal cases to keep them out of the system.
As visitors to National Parks hit the trails, they may occasionally piles of rocks built up into interesting formations and although rock stacking may look cool, it is considered vandalism in national parks.
Rock stacking or rock balancing started off as cairns- rocks stacked as a memorial or to mark an otherwise unknown path. Today, rock stacking is considered an art expression where a person balances rocks on top of each other without any form of adhesive. This practice takes a steady hand and patience regarding gravity. The rocks may be laid flat on top of each other or placed precariously with stones supporting each other’s weight from below and above. The art of rock stacking is so popular, there is even a competition held in Texas each year.
While approved cairns meant to mark a path or rock stacking at a permitted performance or competition are allowed, randomly stacking rocks while visiting national parks is illegal. A spokesperson for Zion National Park posted on their Facebook page regarding stated “Rock stacking in national parks may seem harmless, or even fun to make, but we invite you to reconsider the problem they pose from a broader perspective. On the one hand, hiking in nature should provide an escape and a refuge from the everyday mundane life. That refuge, ideally, should be in an unadulterated natural setting (or minimally so). Rock graffiti, even if seemingly impermanent, disturbs the natural state of the environment for other visitors, and have a permanent ecological impact. Also, be aware that it is considered by the National Park Service as a form of vandalism and it is illegal. Please leave the Narrows beautifully natural.”
Express art elsewhere
Rock stacking is a growing trend among teenagers, many of who are unaware of the criminal charges that can result. Before heading out to the parks as a family or letting teenagers go with friends, discuss with them the charges for rock stacking, rock carving and other types of vandalism in national parks.
Three teens were arrested for vandalism following a tip from a store employee alerting police of their recent purchase of spray paint.
A memory like an elephant…
Graffiti was discovered at the Park Discovery in Cedar City Utah last week and the tool of choice used to create over $5,000 in damage was spray paint. After hearing about the graffiti, a cashier from a local Wal-Mart alerted authorities to potential suspects. Of all the customers the cashier had encountered, they specifically remembered a transaction that took place between them and a few teenage boys. The reason they remembered the incident is because the boys were buying spray paint.
School project, really
Spray paint has many practical and lawful uses yet when a teenager is in possession of it, eyebrows are immediately raised. Unfortunately for teens who have no intentions of breaking the law, there are other youth who use spray paint for illegal reasons such as huffing fumes or vandalism like the graffiti that happened at Park Discovery. The few who make wrong decisions often cause all teens to be subconsciously or consciously profiled by authorities and cashiers.
Red flag items
There are several items along with spray paint that may become suspicious when certain individuals purchase them. Items that have the potential to be used for vandalism or for cooking up drugs may be acceptable if bought by ordinary shoppers. Those same “red flag” purchases become suspicious when purchased either in excess, by someone fitting a druggie profile, or by a juvenile. Oftentimes those profiled end up being innocent. This is frequently the case for teenagers.
Legal counsel for buying spray paint
Frequently, when kids are wrongfully accused of their intentions with a purchase, all they suffer is a bit of humiliation and trust issues with authority. Sometimes however, they may be facing criminal charges for a crime they didn’t commit; their only crime may be simply buying something while fitting a certain profile. In any case, it is wise to contact a juvenile defense attorney for legal counsel.
Countless students will be celebrating their spring break in the great outdoors of Utah and some may regrettably make the mistake of defacing federal land by carving their names in rocks.
Some rock carvings are considered valuable to national history and are protected by federal law; these don’t include anyone’s name carved this century. Ancient petroglyphs etched by Native Americans thousands of years ago, carvings done by early settlers in the 1800-1900’s, and other archaeological treasures are protected by 16 U.S. Code 470ee that states: “No person may excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface, or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any archaeological resource located on public lands or Indian lands ( . . . )” Defacing federal land by carving names or pictures near protected historical sites is in punishable by up to $10,000 and a year behind bars.
Other federal land
Historical writings aren’t the only areas on federal land that are protected; all of it is. Federal land takes up nearly 65% of Utah and includes areas such as:
• National parks
• National monuments
• BLM land
• National recreation areas, and
• National forests
The second anyone steps foot onto any land managed by a federal agency, they are expected to treat the area with respect by not defacing federal land with carvings or other destructive behavior such as a “monument, statue, marker, guidepost, ( . . . ) or tree, shrub, or plant within the limits of any national military parks” spoken of in 16 U.S. Code 413.
Leave the area the way you found it
A good rule of thumb when visiting federal land is to leave the area the way you found it. Not taking anything away with you or leaving anything in your wake such as rock carvings will protect the beautiful area we live in and prevent possible charges for defacing federal land.