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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


‘Coolest Town’ tagged by vandals

(Jan. 29, 2015) At least 30 cars and three businesses were spray painted during a vandalism spree in downtown Berlin late Sunday evening.
By Monday morning, several cars still parked behind shops on Pitts Street were marked with multicolored graffiti, ranging from painted door handles to vulgar images and coarse, racist language, to diagonal lines running across the entirely of vehicles. Vandals also tagged alleys, the backs of several stores and town electric meters.
Police identified dozens of vehicles marked with spray paint, beginning downtown and heading west through residential areas.
Reports of damaged vehicles began at approximately 10 p.m., according to the Berlin Police Department. Additional calls led police to discover more damaged vehicles off Broad Street.
“We’re trying to get everything compiled right now so we can get a hold of all the victims, make sure that’s all coordinated and make sure they understand how to report everything to their insurance ” Police Chief Arnold Downing said.
Downing said the vandalism, which almost exclusively involved spray paint, spread through “various parts of Berlin.”
“We have cars that are totaled,” Downing said. “Right now we haven’t talked to anyone who has given estimates of the damage, so we can’t say anything about that whatsoever.”
Several of the stores in the affected area, including Stuart’s Antiques, Bleached Butterfly and the Church Mouse, were closed on Monday.
While others soldiered on, many workers and residents in Berlin were clearly in shock.
“I was surprised,” Iris Phillips, a receptionist at the Dentist’s Office on Pitts Street, said. “I haven’t seen anything like that before here. This is such a nice little town.”
Janis Robinson, an employee at Town Center Antiques, wondered aloud how the vandals did so much destruction without getting caught.
“I just think it’s horrible that people don’t respect this wonderful town that we live in,” she said.
At least two town officials, District 2 Councilmember Lisa Hall and Economic and Community Development Director Ivy Wells, were affected by the incident.
“They got my son’s truck and my daughter-in-law’s car.” Hall said. “He saw his when he went out for a fire call at 5 [in the morning]. The whole side was light purple.”
Hall said a neighbor heard several car doors slam near 11:30 p.m.
“There were so many of them that she decided to go out there and lock up her vehicle,” she said. “Anything that was parked on the street … it seemed like if it was on the street they got you.”
Wells said she did not know about the damage to her vehicle, which was parked on the street, until the police rang her doorbell at 7:15 Monday morning.
“The damage isn’t that bad,” Wells said. “It looks like they were just driving by and spray painting. It’s just on the windows of the driver’s side, and that’s the side that was facing out. My first reaction was these kids must be really bored.”
Town Administrator Laura Allen said she was confident that the police would track down the perpetrators.
 “It’s certainly not representative of what this town is all about,” she said. “The police department is investigating. They take this very seriously and I have no doubt they’ll figure out who did it pretty quickly.”
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said his first reaction to the incident was anger.
“That soon changed to deep, deep disappointment,” he said. “This is an act of vandalism which is pointless and pathetic. Even when the town was pulling itself up by the bootstraps, graffiti was not part of our culture.
Williams speculated that “the culprits are likely to be on the younger side of life.
“In an ideal world, those people would just turn themselves in and say they’re sorry, and then maybe we could get them involved with community service work because there is so much to do. There’s an infinite number of things that young people can do to help the community instead of participating in these pointless acts of vandalism.”
Downing said it was too early to speculate about motives or suspects in the case, but would not rule out the possibility that the incident was tied to racist and lewd comments made by one or more high school students on social media last Thursday.
“Right now we’re wide open,” Downing said. “We’re still in the early stages and we’re just getting to talk to people, but we’re definitely starting to go ahead and look at social media.”
“Folks say there’s so such thing as a coincidence,” Williams said. “If I was making a pure guess I would say it’s possible they are related. As a citizen of the town and as a town leader there’s no justification for either of those instances.”
Downing advised victims to call their insurance companies and ask for an assessment of damages, and asked Berlin residents and workers to remain vigilant.
“For our business partners and communities keep an extra eye out, make sure you park your vehicles in a well-lit area,” Downing said. “If you can park on your property, park on your property.”
Police urged anyone with information about the incident call 410-641-1333.
“Please give us a call,” Downing said. “Anything that you might see on Facebook or any of the social media websites. Nothing is too small.”