WALLINGFORD, Conn. — A play set at Doolittle Park in Wallingford was set on fire Saturday night and is now closed off as the town works to replace the equipment.
The slides have been melted and the wooden frame is burnt.
Richelle Stainton said it’s sad to see. She brings her kids to the park to play every week and came Tuesday to see the damage.
“Somebody has to fix this. Somebody has to pay for it,” the mom said. “I still feel safe. I feel like this was lack of supervision.”
Police say they have a lot of issues with minors at the park.
In early October, a coach was allegedly assaulted at Doolittle Park. Officer Alex Torres says juvenile complaints are up 95 compared to this time last year.
“As far as arson goes, this has gone a little too far,” he said. “We are not pleased with what’s been going on.”
He said the department has “very strong leads” for who the suspects may be. He’s encouraging them to come forward but, if not, the department will find them.
Neighbors have expressed concerns about the safety of the park for years.
Mike Glidden addressed the town council last week over a lack of action when issues were raised in November 2020.
“We talked about the issues of being a neighbor, not just unsafe maintenance issues, but also the nuisance issues that are occurring out there. So for two years, I guess our complaints were never heard,” he said during the meeting.
Stainton says she’s known about issues at the public park since she was a kid herself.
“I’ve heard of problems since the 70s. My parents talk about problems here. It’s a large park, it’s dark, and there’s not a lot of car paths,” she said. “We need more supervision.”
Security cameras will be going up shortly, Officer Torres says. He said the process has been delayed because of electrical problems but the fire reinforced the need for the devices.
Stainton said she hopes the security cameras help deter crime. Officer Torres said police are increasing patrols at the park.
“We do have officers that stop, they park there, they walk around the place scape,” he said. “That is my area from eight to four in the evening, and I keep an eye on it. I get out. I actually communicate with the juveniles.”
Stainton said the community, including parents, needs to take account of their children.
“It’s sad the disconnect that sometimes we look at these juveniles and forget that they were once kids but unfortunately it seems like they’re forgetting like they were once kids and they used to play and that playscape,” Officer Torres said.
Officer Torres says there may be previous situations that could be tied to those responsible for Saturday’s fire, but this would be the most severe. He said they want people to feel comfortable at the park, a message echoed by Mayor William Dickinson.
He told FOX61 this was vandalism at the extreme and it should not deter people from utilizing the park. The mayor said they are working to remove and replace the equipment as soon as possible.
“It has to stop because there’s a lot of other kids out there and children and parents that do enjoy their time at the park and we want them to continue,” Officer Torres said.
Stainton said, while the fire damage is sad, the community will rebuild.
FOX61 reached out to the town council and the parks and rec department for comment and did not hear back.
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