Navy Point neighbors band together to deter graffiti taggers and vandals

Ted Hawthorne and his wife moved to Navy Point about a year ago. They love the Pensacola community, the parks and the area’s natural beauty. That’s why Hawthorne stepped in to help clean up when he saw graffiti sprayed on and under the Navy Point Bridge, the morning of Sunday, March 3.

Items at nearby Linear Park were also tagged including the sidewalk, a bench, a portable restroom, fence, trash can, and even a live oak tree.  

Hawthorne said this is the latest of several recent graffiti tagging incidents at the park and the bridge. He said vandals hit it this past February, as well as last fall.

Hawthorne and the neighborhood crime watch are now working with Escambia County Parks and Recreation staff to help tackle any graffiti, damage or trash left behind at the park. He said they don’t want the Navy Point Bridge to become like Pensacola’s popular Graffiti Bridge.

“This park is why my wife and I moved here and it’s a beautiful place that belongs to everyone, and we’re just doing our little part,” Hawthorne said. “I’m sure you’re familiar with the broken window theory of crime prevention, that small crimes beget larger ones. It was just unsightly and (the county) provided the paint and I said we’ll paint it when it occurs.”

Hawthorne and the neighborhood crime watch have reported the problems to Escambia County Commissioner Mike Kohler, who represents that district. He has been making an effort to clean up the area utilizing code enforcement and other county resources, especially targeting the neighborhoods outside Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Kohler said he is responsive to neighbor’s complaints, whether it’s vandalism or a code enforcement issue, because it’s part of improving the area and encouraging people to take pride in their communities.

Graffiti artists have tagged the underside of the Sunset Avenue bridge, also known as the Navy Point Bridge.

“I’m trying to clean this place up and I told the neighbors over there and to keep your eye out,” Kohler said. “The vandalism is terrible and I’m working with the Sheriff’s Office and neighbors to try to find these people and bring them to justice.”

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the issues. Graffiti pops up throughout the county and it’s often monitored. Certain types of graffiti can indicate organized gang or criminal activity, but the sheriff’s office says it’s rare to find that connection. Most of the time the graffiti is local taggers.

“This database called Fusion is used on a national level more than I would say on a local level,” explained Escambia Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Morgan Lewis. “If there are what appears to be national-related gang symbols or something like that, we’ll obviously update the Fusion database, but if it’s anything more on the local level, we just handle that ourselves and keep a record.”

Jerry Nestlerode heads up the Navy Point crime watch. He said neighbors regularly keep an eye on Linear Park and spearhead the effort to clean up any trash or graffiti they find with the support of the county.

“My hope is that we’ll get it cleaned up and that we’re going to deter or potentially catch whoever the people that are doing this, just deter them through fines or whatever the punishment may be,” Nestlerode rode. “We want people to be able to come and enjoy the park without these problems.”

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