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Authorities warn against vandalising public property in Utah forests

By Nate Larsen,

2023-05-25

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SALT LAKE CITY ( ABC4 ) — As the temperatures rise and the snow begins to melt, an increasing number of people are venturing out to enjoy the breathtaking forest areas of northern Utah.

However, amidst this surge in visitors, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest has noticed a distressing trend of graffiti vandalism, particularly in the lower-elevation forest regions, including Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.

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“We have these beautiful canyons that people come from all over to see, and we go up and enjoy them all the time. It’s just heartbreaking almost to see the destruction that’s done. You know, you don’t go up there to see people writing their monikers and defacing the place,” said Sgt. Melody Cutler from the Unified Police Department.

Our canyons are federal lands, belonging to all of us. They are not an open canvas for graffiti artists, Cutler emphasized, adding that there is a victim in this act of vandalism.

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“It’s not like it’s no one’s property,” she said. “It’s all of ours. And so, there is a victim. If people are thinking it’s harmless, it’s not.”

Graffiti problems are not unique to outdoor spaces, but the Forest Service and law enforcement agencies want to remind visitors that depending on the severity of the damage, graffiti can be classified as a felony offense.

“Normally, graffiti would be considered a Class B misdemeanor, but if the cost of damage increases, such as etching into valuable surfaces, it could potentially rise to a felony,” Cutler said.

To address this issue, Cutler suggests discussing graffiti and its consequences with our children may help reduce such incidents in the future.

“Have a conversation with your kids about the realities of respect for property and respect for others,” she said. “Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to.”

In the event that the perpetrator remains unidentified, the Unified Police Department or the Forest Service is responsible for removing or repairing the damages. However, if the individual responsible takes the initiative to repair the property, the penalties can be reduced.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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