Residents today made an impassioned plea to help save Blackpool’s Stanley Park from the scourge of vandals.
The rallying cry comes after a disturbing spate of mindless damage which has seen the park’s Charlie Cairoli statue targeted, trampolines trashed and boats on the boating lake sunk.
The vandalism comes after Blackpool Council stopped monitoring CCTV cameras throughout the town, including the park, due to budget cuts.
Today, calls were made to help catch the yobs responsible – but park supporters admitted it would be hard to find them without round-the-clock policing of the park.
Park user Carol Peters, 65, from Kempton Avenue, Marton, said: “This is Blackpool’s park and people are abusing it.
“It’s a lovely place to be, and it’s nice to see children and families enjoying it so when you see this vandalism it’s vicious, and it hurts. “We can blame the people responsible, but we have to blame the council as well for not doing more to protect it.”
The Friends of Stanley Park recognise there is a problem at the park, but fear there is little that can be done to put a stop to it.
President Elaine Smith said: “It’s skateboards that are the menace of the park – they really are a nuisance.
“The damage those people using skateboards are doing to the coping stone is costing us a lot of money, yet no-one thinks of that as vandalism.”
Mrs Smith suggested people on skateboards had been using the Charlie Cairoli statue, sited in the Rose Garden, to give themselves a boost, causing the damage, which was first seen just 10 days after it was unveiled.
But as for stopping the people responsible, Mrs Smith said she wasn’t sure there was an answer.
“There is no firm on earth that could afford to have someone monitor it 24 hours a day and it’s such a vast park it would take several people patrolling it at all hours,” she said. “I despair at the whole thing.”
Park user Joan Pickup, 52, of Stoneway Road, Cleveleys, said: “This is a great park and so beautiful, who would want to vandalise it?
“It’s a shame that it’s suffering. The answer, obviously, is that someone has to be monitoring the CCTV cameras or put wardens in.”
David Michael Pickles, 51, of Kinmoss Crescent, Marton, said if no-one was looking at footage as it was being recorded, the cameras were no good.
He added: “These people have no respect for the town, and should be given a lesson in self respect and respect for other people and their property.
“The problem is that if the people behind this vandalism know they are going to get away with it, it will never stop.”
Christine Bradshaw, 64, of Moresby Avenue, Normoss, added: “The park is here for everybody, and there are mindless people coming in and spoiling it.
“It’s really disappointing but there needs to be a deterrent to put a stop to this vandalism.”
The council voted through a package of savings in February which saw £187,600 slashed from the CCTV budget. The measures mean since April 1, the cameras have still been filming but are not monitored live.
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, said CCTV could help combat the vandalism.
He added: “The park vandalism has always been there but certainly if CCTV is not being monitored, there is not much chance of getting someone on the spot quickly if something has happened.
“It is okay looking at images afterwards, but if they are taken in the dark, it makes it more difficult to track a perpetrator down later on.”
What is the answer to park attacks? Police and council give their views...
WHAT THE POLICE SAY
Inspector Matthew Willmot, of Blackpool Police, said tackling anti-social behaviour was a priority.
He added: “Stanley Park has a dedicated neighbourhood policing team who regularly carry out high visibility patrols around the park.
“Sadly the area has recently been subjected to various incidents of criminal damage and subsequently this has been made a PACT (Police and Community Together) priority for the area and police action has been taken.
“We are working closely with Blackpool Council, the park manager and young people who routinely use the skate park to alleviate problems which are partly being caused by young people using non-designated areas of the park for skateboarding or other sports.
“Our hope is a more suitable skateboard park design can be achieved and the skateboarders themselves are involved in helping us to reach that solution.
“I’d reassure people that park CCTV is regularly monitored by our PCSOs to identify any issues and our anti-social behaviour car routinely visits the park.
“Despite reports of criminal damage being received, many of our investigations have revealed some damage has been accidental, particularly to the statue, although nonetheless we fully appreciate the impact this damage has on park users.
“Where genuine crimes have happened we will thoroughly investigate and offer appropriate crime prevention advice.
“We will continue to listen to any concerns from members of the public but would urge the community to work together to help us to maintain the park as a space that people can enjoy.”
WHAT THE COUNCIL SAY
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for leisure and tourism on Blackpool Council, said: “The vandalism that has occurred in recent weeks should not dampen our enthusiasm for the park.
“The reality is this is a public park which can be shared and enjoyed by all.
“We don’t want a military operation policing the place 24 hours a day or guards patrolling around to make sure people are behaving themselves, that would be a sad state of affairs.
“We do take sensible security steps and there are security cameras in place and running 24 hours a day while we also part fund the PCSOs who keep an eye on the area.
“But we, the people of Blackpool, cannot let an idiotic few spoil things for everyone else.”