Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Video: Denton County officials enforce curfew in response to vandalism
The Courthouse-on-the-Square and its lawn are currently under video surveillance.
Photo by Flickr user SA Moberly.
As a response to numerous cases of vandalism at Denton’s Courthouse-on-the-Square, Denton County commissioners decided in August to establish formal hours of operation for county buildings. The curfew makes the courthouse, one of Denton’s most visible and popular landmarks, and its lawn off limits from midnight to 6 a.m.
The vandalism includes graffiti, often crudely drawn with markers, on both the courthouse itself and the sidewalks outside.
Kelsey Oakes, a development and family studies senior who frequents the courthouse lawn, said she thinks the graffiti came from a few bad apples.
“Most people who come here don’t have bad intentions,” Oakes said. “It’s just a nice place to come and hang out.”
Denton residents react to graffiti
Oakes said the new curfew would put a damper on the square’s nightlife.
“Especially on weekends, a lot of people are out here late, and I don’t see how you can enforce a curfew when so many people like to come out here,” Oakes said.
Denton County police said some of the graffiti may be a result of Denton’s music scene shifting from Fry Street to the Square and the subsequent bar crowd.
Kevin Roden, the Denton City Council member representing District 1, which includes the square, addressed the police comments on his website on August 25.
“… It is irresponsible and unfortunate to pin the blame on an aspect of Denton culture that is enriching to civic life and continually puts us in the national and international media spotlight,” Roden wrote.
Roden said he sympathized with Denton County leaders trying to address the problem, but also wrote that the downtown square had thrived in recent years because of its unique “sense of place,” and that the curfew could be detrimental to it.
Roden recommended increased responsibility among Denton residents, encouraged investment in better landscaping, and said law enforcement should distinguish between people gathered peacefully at the courthouse and potential vandals.
“To be clear, destructive, senseless, and criminal activity of this kind has no place on the downtown square,” Roden wrote. “But we must avoid policies that serve to turn back the momentum of a community that is enjoyed by many who live in or visit the downtown area.”
Brandon Martin, an employee at Hooligans, a pub located across the street from the courthouse, said he hadn’t noticed any graffiti personally but was familiar with the new curfew and said he didn’t think it would have an effect on businesses located near the square.
“The people they’re trying to deter from the courthouse are the people that can’t afford to come here,” Martin said. “Homeless people, bored kids, people with nothing better to do.”
Martin said he was glad officials were taking measures to protect the courthouse, but said it was unfortunate for the people who just wanted to have a good night on the square.
The courthouse and its lawn are currently under video surveillance, and Denton County Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information on graffiti on the square.
Although the courthouse is the property of the county, city of Denton police officers also patrol the area.
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