Vandals strike Jaffrey: Police are investigating vandalism at Humiston Park and St. Patrick School

  • St. Patrick School, Jaffrey. Ledger-Transcript file photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/5/2019 12:11:56 PM

Jaffrey police are investigating vandalism to the Humiston Park playground and St. Patrick School building that took place over the past few weeks.

Police were alerted of the vandalism at Humiston Park on Wednesday evening, Police Chief Bill Oswalt said Thursday. Vandalism to the park involved multiple small swastikas drawn on various pieces of playground equipment as well as the word Nazi and an obscene phrase written on the equipment. Police said a black marker was used.

Oswalt said the vandalism has the potential to be considered hate speech.

“It would really depend on the circumstances, but it has that potential,” Oswalt said. “It’s unfortunate and a little disturbing.”

Oswalt said Monday that the department is following a couple leads brought forth by people who live in the area. 

Oswalt said there are no suspects yet, but police will investigate the vandalism to determine if the swastikas were drawn for “shock value” or if the intent was something deeper.

The Jewish Federation of New Hampshire issued a statement Friday afternoon condemning the incident.

“We should never tolerate anti-Semitic statements, anti-Semitic discrimination, anti-Semitic bigotry, and other hateful anti-Semitic expressions of intolerance,” the release reads. “Anti-Semitism in all its forms is contradictory to the values and aspirations of our country, our state, and our respective communities. Anyone with more information about the playground vandalism are encouraged to contact the police department.”

This is the second time in the past year the playground was vandalized.

Last July, the town’s Parks and Recreation Department was forced to close the playground after nuts and bolts were loosened and removed and pieces of equipment were stolen.

The playground was partially reopened about a month later, and police arrested three people in connection with the crime in January.

Oswalt also said Thursday that the shuttered St. Patrick School building was vandalized on March 25 and 26.

During the first incident, police found that a television, computer equipment and windows were smashed. And several containers of paint were used to draw obscene pictures and vulgar statements inside the building.

The following day police found that more property had been damaged inside the school.

Oswalt estimated that the damage to the building was “less than multiple thousands” of dollars, but added that it was a “very rough estimate.”

Oswalt said the two St. Patrick School break-ins are believed to be committed by two separate groups of juveniles.

“The only connection is that both acts of vandalism were committed by juveniles,” Oswalt said.

Oswalt said the juveniles involved in these two crimes were small groups of 10 and 11-year-old children. Police are currently in discussions with the children’s parents and St. Patrick Parish Pastor Rev. Wilfred Deschamps about a potential punishment.

“We try to find a balance of not being overly punitive,” Oswalt said. “They have shown a level of compassion.”

The St. Patrick School building has sat empty for the past four years. It was put up for sale in September 2015, after it was announced earlier that year that the 2014-15 school year would be the school’s last.

Plans to turn the space into a new town office facility and elderly housing have been broached since that  time, but nothing came of either proposal.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.


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