Months-long vandalism spree taking a toll in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES, Wash. -- It has spanned two months, caused thousands of dollars in damage, and puzzled police.

Investigators still aren't sure who is behind a months-long vandalism spree in Port Angeles, but they're hoping the public can help.

"It just ties up a lot of resources that could be used in a better way," said Sgt. Nick Turner of the Clallam County Sheriff's Office. "It increases taxes. It's a horrible impact on the community."

The most obvious impact has been on bus riders, Turner said, after windows in at least 15 bus shelters have been shot out since November. The most recent vandalism was discovered Monday, where someone shot at a large bus shelter window at US Hwy 101 and Monroe Street, leaving the glass spiderwebbed.

"Everyone in Clallam County is paying for it," said Terry Weed, general manager of Clallam County Transit. "From a taxpayer point of view, through sales tax, (the public is) funding our budget. It's also a safety issue. Luckily, no one's been hurt, to my knowledge, as a result."

Weed said that, on average, between two and four windows a year are broken on county bus shelters, either by accident or on purpose. So far, since mid-November, they've had more than 20 broken, likely by someone shooting with a BB or pellet gun, investigators said.

Store windows have also been broken, in addition to windows and cars at a local car dealership. In one case, a woman sitting in a car near 5th and Laurel Streets had her back window shot out, said Deputy Chief Brian Smith of the Port Angeles Police Department. The woman was not injured, and no arrests have been made.

"She noticed that her rear window had been spidered as it had been fired upon," Smith said. "Obviously we're frustrated for the amount of property loss. I mean, someone's paying for that. There's victims out there. It's damaging people's small businesses."

Smith also believes some damage may have gone unreported by people who feel it is insignificant or unimportant.

Transit crews can't keep up with the damage, Weed added. The cost of replacing each plate of glass costs hundreds of dollars in addition labor, he said, and many of the panes haven't been replaced while new ones keep getting broken.

It's a taxing issue on an agency that's already strapped for cash, having been in a deficit spending situation over the past 4 or 5 years.

"This is not a terribly big budget item, but it's a nickel and dime that we're trying to really carefully watch," Weed added. "It's really frustrating for staff."