By Lucie Lagodich ~ It was July 27, 2020, when the Fire Island Lighthouse was defaced with graffiti. Now over a year later, there have been other acts of vandalism, but none have matched the style of the original work and a culprit has yet to be caught. Other places that were damaged included graffiti at the public bathroom by the park entrance, an oil tank as well as the Carrington Tract – which like the lighthouse is historically landmarked.
“We did the necessary documentation, we’ve followed up with Suffolk County to see if they had anything similar to that in their registry. We also had cameras out for a while, just in case it was a repeat offender, but we never closed the loop to determine who it was,” Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) Superintendent Alexcy Romero said.
This act occurred amid the COVID-19 pandemic, during which parks across the country have experienced an increase in property damage, largely due to the decrease in patrol numbers, which was similarly experienced by FINS.
“We noticed that because there were fewer people in the park, people working in the park, there were fewer eyes out there,” Romero said. “I would say the 16 months when there was low staffing presence there was an uptick in resource-related damages to various park sites, and most of them, unfortunately, were historic sites.”
Romero said that it is likely the damage to the oil tank and the Carrington Tract are different culprits than the writing left on the lighthouse and bathroom as the style differs from the other events. Although all of the cases remain open, Romero noted that progress has been made to identify the individual behind the damage caused to the Carrington Tract, which occurred within the last six months.
FINS collaborated with the Suffolk County Police Department and used their database to narrow down the offender to an individual residing in New York City.
“This person has been identified but not apprehended. He or she has an alias on Instagram. We’re trying to find out who that alias is,” Romero said.
FINS was unable to share further information on the person behind this incident as it is an ongoing investigation. Romero added that there is no trend in the number of vandalism cases over the last year and they have been occurring every few months.
The spattering of cases last year totaled to six acts of vandalism over 10 days leading the FINS to place additional wildlife cameras in the area after the event.
“We use [cameras] to monitor wildlife throughout the park. [Afterwards] we set them up in various locations around the lighthouse,” Romero said. “We did have a camera up, but we could not really identify anything – it was too blurry, as well as nighttime. So, we decided to put more cameras up as a result of that.”
Despite not being able to track down the culprit, Romero was grateful for the number of community reports in response to last year’s event and they are still accepting any tips or information on the incidents. He encourages anyone who sees suspicious activity or finds property damage to call the FINS 24-hour dispatch line at 570-426-2457 or 911 if it is an emergency.
“I would say that the community is very active. I think there were many responses, whether it was social media or people just emailing or calling expressing concern,” Romero said. “Even though we don’t have a formal neighborhood watch, I think that they were vigilant and looking out to protect their lighthouse and their resources so just a big thank you to the community. Keeping their eyes out and open so that it wouldn’t happen again.”
Information on these incidents can also be reported to the NPS Investigative Services Branch in confidence by calling or texting the ISB Tip Line at 888-653-0009, emailing email@example.com , or completing an online “submit a tip form on their website at www.nps.gov/ISB .
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