Crime Stoppers of Niagara is issuing a special appeal to identify whoever is responsible for vandalizing a number of “Pay and Display” vending machines in parking lots on a three-kilometre stretch of the Niagara Parkway in the vicinity of the Whirlpool.
David Adames, chief executive officer of Niagara Parks, said solar panels on 15 parking machines in lots between the Niagara Glen Nature Centre and the Whirlpool Parkette were heavily damaged when pummelled with a hammer at different times from March 11 to March 25.
The automatic parking permit dispensing devices are worth $10,000 each and repair costs are extremely expensive, he said. Niagara Parks Police is handling the vandalism investigation and will follow up on any leads provided by Crime Stoppers.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Those providing tips to Crime Stoppers do not have to give their names or testify in court. The tip that leads to an arrest is eligible for a cash reward.
“We’re hoping Crime Stoppers callers will identify the person or persons who vandalized this equipment,” Adames said. “It’s just senseless destruction of property. We don’t know if it’s one person or different people, but hopefully Crime Stoppers will get tips to help solve this illegal behaviour.”
Niagara Parks is a self funded agency of the Ontario government and does not receive tax dollars to support the operation of the 56 kilometre tourist area along the Niagara River between Niagara on the Lake and Fort Erie, he said.
During the COVID-19 lockdown period there have been two other serious incidents of damage – the theft of artistic hands placed around the Floral Clock as a symbol of unity and connection, as well as at the Winter Festival of Lights display in Dufferin Park where wires were severed and power boxes smashed.
Adames said any damage occurring on Niagara Parks property is “disappointing” and takes away from the enjoyment that people have while visiting the area’s tourist hub with 3,274 acres of parkland. He also said it takes away revenue that is needed to renovate sites, upgrade buildings, maintain nature trails and repair roadways and parking facilities, as well as funding the Niagara Parks Police and paying full-time and seasonal salaries.
Damage to the parking machines has occurred at the Niagara Glen, Thompson Point, the Fisherman’s lot and the Whirlpool Parkette.
Barry Diamond, chair of the Niagara Crime Stoppers program, said every crime has impact on communities, but criminal acts at Niagara Parks can have a negative effect on the area’s tourism industry and make the region less attractive to visitors.
“Tourism is vital to our area and the economy of not only Niagara Region, but the entire country.” Diamond said. “If anyone knows who damaged these parking machines, I urge them to call Crime Stoppers and let us know who committed these criminal acts.”
“We are all responsible for keeping our region safe and secure,” he said.