Middle Village vandals beware.
The Juniper Park Civic Association is teaming up with local leaders to put a bounty on the person responsible for killing 12 young trees in Juniper Valley Park.
Ten cherry and two oak trees were discovered severed in half early Sunday morning — apparently the work of a power saw, according to witnesses.
“They’ve been picking on the newly planted trees — I guess they’re easy prey,” JPCA President Robert Holden said. “We’re putting on an aggressive campaign to try and catch this individual or individuals.”
Holden said he learned of the attack during an early morning walk when a neighborhood resident alerted him to the crime.
It’s the latest in a string of tree attacks at the park. Since planting nearly 300 trees in the park last spring, about 30 have been ripped out, broken or cut down, Holden said.
It’s also the last straw for the suspected vandals. The group, which includes JPCA, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and former Councilman Tom Ognibene, is offering a reward of $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the alleged tree killer.
“If you want to catch somebody you have to offer an incentive,” Holden said.
Parks officials are dubbing the crime premeditated arborcide — an infraction punishable with up to $15,000 in fines and up to one year in prison.
“Arborcide is a serious criminal offense and an assault on our communities, and the loss of 12 newly planted trees in Juniper Valley Park is a blow to the quality of life and environmental health of Juniper Valley Park.Trees are a valuable asset, providing shade and oxygen, cleaning the air and creating homes for wildlife,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said.
While some of the previous attacks have since been attributed to juvenile delinquents, Holden said the latest attack didn’t necessarily fit the same profile.
Now Holden is asking police to enforce the park’s 9 p.m. curfew more strictly. The civic group is also considering a request for security cameras to help deter future acts of vandalism at the park.
“If we had some video I think people would think twice about taking a saw into the park,” Holden said.
A police investigation into the tree destruction is ongoing. Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers at (800) 577-TIPS. You can also text tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577.