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Timothy Myers: I want to check every child’s alibi

Posted: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

Our youngest son recently attended a Nike Tennis Camp at Stanford University. (Before anyone gets excited, qualification for a Nike Tennis Camp relates to the willingness of the player or the player’s family to pay the fees for the weeklong overnight camp.)

In the weeks leading up to the camp his older siblings joked that after returning he could pad any future resume by stating that he attended Stanford University followed by “Nike Tennis Camp” in extremely small type.

But intervening events meant the camp attendance provided another invaluable benefit. We know for a fact that our son did not perform the aberrant act of vandalism in the wee hours of July 26 at the Northbridge Grandview pool when persons unknown poured paint, allegedly purloined from the nearby Helmers Elementary School, into the pool pipes, effectively fouling the equipment and turning the entire pool facility into a biohazard. Many witnesses know that the youngest member of the Myers clan found himself safely tucked up in a Stanford dormitory 400 miles away during the commission of the dastardly deed.

The vandalism struck hard into the chords of the community due to its sui generis nature. Like most Valencia tracts, Northbridge boasts three pools for usage by members of the community with key access, with one large pool with competition swimming lanes supported by smaller satellite pools. The Grandview pool accommodated swimming lanes, including the association’s Bluefins swim team. The extent of damage means the Bluefins will lose the remainder of their season, and the community will lose the usage of the pool through the dog days of summer.

Now this did not constitute the first vandalism suffered by the association. Like every single community in Santa Clarita, Northbridge contends with graffiti, fought and removed quickly with diligence by community volunteers and city personnel under the city’s robust graffiti removal program. Prior acts of the mentally deficient with relation to the pool included damaging restrooms which now all require keys, throwing pool furniture into the pool, and the somewhat soft vandalism of pouring dish soap into the pool workings.

This latest act almost seems like an escalation. With their graffiti tags quickly removed and little reaction from throwing floating furniture into the pool, the culprits decided to up the ante by making the most damage with relatively little effort.

But this time they went too far. The entire community knows about their act due to signs at the Grandview pool and the two satellite pools. The private security firm serving the association and local law enforcement stand on high alert. The association offered a substantial reward so the perpetrators must not brag about their act to someone motivated by that kind of money.

The comments attached to the Web stories regarding this crime got ferocious in a hurry, with many advocating the Singaporean practice of caning. Predictably, most participants quickly jumped on the “blame the parents” bandwagon, (The association can in certain circumstances hold parents of minors responsible for damages on a civil basis.) but I think that oversimplifies the issue.

The “blame the parents” meme seems to make two assumptions that one cannot prove outside of the highly unlikely possibility the parents of these miscreants provided them with the paint and instructed them on how to cause the most damage. First, the belief that parents can or should keep middle school and high school students under constant physical surveillance 24/7. Second, and more important, those under 18 possess no agency or accountability for their own acts.

I possess some (admittedly anecdotal) insight into what motivates these miscreants from previous work supervising vandals doing community service removing graffiti tags. Suburban graffiti vandals see themselves in the frame of misunderstood yet talented artists making important cultural statements with their depredations. The vandals who closed down the pool see themselves in the frame of estranged from general society, probably due to their lack of recognition and accomplishment in the athletic, academic and performing arts pursuits so favored by the suburban culture. They need catching and wising up in a hurry!

So I am not above detectives or private security doing door to door in the neighborhood and requiring all children above the age of 11 to account for their whereabouts on the night in question, starting with me. One could find our 17 year old tucked up in a dormitory in Palo Alto.

Timothy Myers is a Valencia resident.

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