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Downtown vandalism is disappointing

The city of Farmington is fighting an ongoing battle these days against one or more vandals who find a certain pleasure in defacing walls, fences, signs and more in the downtown area. Street lights have been broken. Words have been scrawled on just about any surface that will accept them.

The recent string of property damage is problematic in part because of the cost it represents for the city. Each time city workers replace a broken globe on a streetlight it costs as much as $500. And the city has replaced several of those globes recently. Cleaning graffiti off of walls takes staff time and city money.

The worst, though, is the damage done to artwork in the city's Depot Way Art Park. The park, located alongside the railroad tracks south of Elm Street, is an under-appreciated feature of downtown Farmington. A product of the Dakota Valley Arts Council, it features works of art by professionals and amateurs alike. It has created a venue for students from grade school to high school to share their artistic vision with the wider community.

And while city workers can scrub spray paint off of walls, things aren't so easy when the messages are scrawled on another person's creative work. Parks and recreation director Randy Distad said when possible the city has tried to recruit the original artist to paint over the damage the vandals have done.

It's disappointing to know someone would take pleasure from defacing someone else's work. Graffiti can be art if done with care and with thought, but that is not the case here. These are hastily sprayed words and crude images. There is no art in them, only destruction.

Vandals are never easy to catch. They do their work when nobody else is around. And it takes a lot less time to deface a work of art than it does to create one. Police are doing what they can, though. Video cameras perched on city hall are trained on the park, and police can watch the feeds remotely. The city is working with some area stores to track purchases of spray paint and other materials.

We hope it makes a difference. Because the park -- and city property in general -- is worth protecting.