by Larry Austin
Town of Grand Island officials and local police are hoping a $1,000 reward will help resolve a spate of vandalism incidents that have taken place at the Nike Base.
Since an original December vandalism incident - during which unknown persons entered the maintenance garage by breaking a window and then spray-painted numerous buildings and vehicles on the property - three more incidents of vandalism have taken place. The Nike Base on Whitehaven Road is home to the Golden Age Center, Reality Café, and town offices. Windows have been smashed on town trucks, and fires have been set.
Detective Brian O'Hara of the Erie County Sheriff's Office believes a group of four kids are responsible.
"There have been a couple witnesses, and each time they've seen a group," O'Hara said.
Greater Buffalo Metropolitan Crimestoppers (716-867-6161) is offering a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the crimes, which have resulted in more than $10,000 in damages, as well as thefts, O'Hara said.
He estimated the perpetrators were Islanders between 14 and 18 years of age.
"The last time they were in, they took gum, they took some candy and stuff out of the Reality Café, some cash, an Xbox," O'Hara said. They ate the candy in a nearby backyard and were probably watching police investigate their original crime, O'Hara said.
Patrons of the base and Golden Age Center have less to fear of the vandals, O'Hara said, than the vandals have of themselves.
"The people that have something to be afraid of are the kids that are doing it, because they've started setting things on fire, which is extremely dangerous," O'Hara said. "They don't know what they're doing."
Arson is a class B felony. "That's years in prison upstate," O'Hara said.
O'Hara hopes the Crimestoppers reward will make people open their eyes to what is going on.
"Half the high school knows who did it. I guarantee it."
"I bet there're probably even parents that know that their kids are involved in this," O'Hara said.
Time may be running out for the vandals with a large chunk of change on the table for someone to collect.
"If I knew who it was, I'd take the $1,000," O'Hara said.
He added that the best solution is for those responsible for the vandalism to put the brakes on their behavior.
"First of all, it needs to stop. And they need to come see me before I come see them. If parents think that their child might be involved, they need to call someone. It's not going to go away," he said.
"If these kids don't get stopped, I guarantee one of these times they're going to burn one of those buildings right down to the ground. It may not be their intention," O'Hara said.
"It's not the crime of the century," O'Hara said. "It's an extreme nuisance and someone's got to pay for it."
Most recently, deputies responded to a report of an alarm ringing at the Nike Base. Upon arrival, deputies found a smashed window to the Reality Café but no subjects were inside, according to the police report.