Somewhere, The Great Pumpkin is weeping.
More than $750 in autumn decorations arranged on downtown streets by Main Street Columbus have been stolen or destroyed in the past week.
The Columbus Police Department reports most of the damage was done Oct. 22 in a spree that spanned several city blocks from the Magnolia Bowl to College Street and over to Sixth Street South. More vandalism occurred Oct. 23. Approximately 25 pumpkins or gourds were taken, damaged or smashed.
Vandals have randomly been harassing downtown seasonal displays since mid-October, said Amber Murphree Brislin, Main Street Columbus director. Main Street Columbus already has exhausted its $2,300 fall budget and won”t be able to replace the damaged or stolen display pieces.
“We will continue our seasonal decorations and plantings as long as funding allows in order to make Columbus and downtown as beautiful as possible and hope in the future vandalism is not an issue,” Brislin said. “I also encourage everyone to continue their support for beautification efforts and to keep an eye out for possible vandals.”
Due diligence is the same advice offered by Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John. Such vandalism can occur on a whim, so paying close attention is the only way to catch or stop such behavior, he said.
“I would be very surprised if these kids are plotting for days about smashing a pumpkin,” St. John said. “Everybody needs to be on the lookout later at night. These are really random acts.”
He suggests calling the police to report minors on the street past curfew.
The Columbus City Council Columbus recently toughened the city”s curfew rules. A minor or compulsory-school-age child cannot loiter after 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Anyone found in violation of the ordinance will be taken, by the CPD, to a youth detention center and their parents will be notified.
Once the parent or guardian arrives to pick up the minor, the parent or guardian will receive notice that a second violation will bring a fine of $125 or community service for the parent or guardian.
Subsequent violations mean escalating penalties, up to as much as $500 or 50 hours of community service, for the parents or guardians.
Main Street Columbus, via 10 volunteers, will put out donated greenery decorations such as magnolias in November, Brislin said.
Main Street receives funding through both the city and the county as well as private donations. Anyone wishing to donate to future projects or to volunteer may call Main Street Columbus” office at 662-328-6305.
“So much effort, good will, volunteer efforts, donations and time go into making our city and our downtown look the best that it can, and it is disheartening when things are destroyed or vandalized,” Brislin said.
Vandalism of fall decorations is expected each year, but St. John said other forms of vandalism take place sporadically in the time around Halloween.
“Halloween does bring that kind of stuff out. It”s kind of a subtradition of the holiday that starts with the pumpkins,” he said.
The pumpkins and decorations are vulnerable simply because they”re outside and often unmonitored, St. John noted. Additional Halloween vandalism is generally minor.
“You might get an egg on a car,” St. John said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.