EDITOR’S NOTE: Vulgar language spraypainted on a church, car break-ins, damage to a heritage home, overturned mailboxes, destruction of a trail cam, benches knocked over along Stittsville Main Street, stolen lawn ornaments… there’s a long list of recent acts of vandalism, minor thefts and property crimes in our community. Sometime overnight from Saturday to Sunday, someone smashed the window at Gaia Java (above). They didn’t break in or take anything, they just broke the window.
Stittsville writer Amanda Gordon brings up some several issues in this column. We’d like to hear from other residents too, especially from teenagers and parents. Send us your thoughts at email@example.com.
As residents of Stittsville, my family and I have enjoyed the suburban life. We live in an older area that’s filled with mature trees, driveways that actually fit more than two cars, and a school within steps of our front door. We can walk to the grocery store, drug store, meat market, countless parks, and ice cream shops in just a few minutes. It’s a nice place to raise our two young children, and one that we see ourselves growing old in.
The downside, however, is that it seems to have a serious case of bored and reckless youth syndrome.
A recent wave of vandalism and crime by our community’s youth has the area on high alert. Numerous car break-ins, damaged property including children’s playgrounds and local churches, unexpected visitors in people’s backyards at all hours of the night, and stolen or broken home decor items such as planters and lights. All of it is happening on a seemingly consistent basis.
At first people thought it was because school was out for the summer and teenagers had nothing better to do. It didn’t make it right, but it explained why so many of them were roaming the streets with nothing better to do. But school has started and nothing has changed. There have been more car break-ins and a local school has been vandalized.
Who are they, why are they doing this, and how are they getting away with it? Local citizens who have come into contact with some of them peg them to be no older than high school age. Shouldn’t they be at home in the middle of the night? Don’t they have school in the morning or jobs to attend to?
Some say that Stittsville doesn’t offer any good options to keep our youth entertained. No skateboard parks, no local dances, no festivals. What do you expect from a bored teenager? The community should do more to keep them busy.
But here’s the thing: Being bored shouldn’t equal illegal activity. Being bored shouldn’t equal non-existent morals and values. And being bored shouldn’t jeopardize your respect for others. I think we can all agree that vandalizing a children’s playground with broken glass is pretty low.
It’s true that our community, and any community, holds a certain amount of responsibility for entertaining youth to keep them out of trouble. There should be good places for them to go. But we are not alone in that responsibility. At the end of the day, parents must be accountable for their own kids. They should know where they are and who they are with. Without plugged in parents, the community’s efforts can only go so far.
It’s hard to know what the issue is. Are the kids so entitled and lack so much discipline that they are simply allowed to do whatever they want? Or are the parents trying everything they can to keep their kids on the straight and narrow, and losing?
I’m not oblivious to the fact that teenagers can do less than brilliant things. Testing boundaries, trying to fit in, all of it is to be expected. But once crime comes into the picture, we need to take a serious look at what’s happening. This isn’t nicky nicky nine doors anymore.
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