Vandals chop down Steeplechase trees

Published 10:57 pm Monday, June 15, 2009

Melissa Alexander is one of the lucky ones.

The tree in her front yard still stands, and the wound that was dealt to it by vandals sometime Friday night or Saturday morning may not prove to be a mortal one.

Still, she’s plenty perturbed that someone took an axe or a hatchet to it in the middle of the night.

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“I’m really upset about my poor tree, because I like that tree,” she said Monday afternoon.

Alexander’s was one of several homes in the Steeplechase area of Suffolk that vandals visited during the weekend. They left their mark in fallen or wounded ornamental trees.

Police reported that at least four homes in the neighborhood had ornamental trees chopped down sometime after 10 p.m. Friday night. Trees in front of several other homes in the area were deeply cut into and might not survive.

Alexander’s maple tree was actually among the most lightly damaged, and she said her husband planned to put tree tar on the wound to see if it would heal.

Others in the neighborhood were not so lucky, awakening Saturday morning to find their ornamental Japanese maples and cherry trees cut down and lying in their yards.

“It’s probably just a bunch of bratty kids running around the neighborhood,” Alexander said.

Problems in the neighborhood have increased during the three years she and her two sons and her husband have lived in the home on Huntclub Chase.

“We’ve had a lot of doorbell-ringing and late-night knocking lately,” she said. And the family has begun emptying its vehicles of valuables each night.

“The kids don’t got nothing to do,” she said, noting that the community’s homeowners’ association had removed a basketball court that residents had used and replaced it with grass after receiving complaints about noise and trash.

“If you don’t give the kids something to do — someplace to go — this is what’s going to happen,” she said, pointing at her injured tree.

Residents of the neighborhood pay a monthly fee of about $45 to the homeowners’ association. They have a community pool, but Alexander said she wishes there were more entertainment choices for the youth who live there.

“I think the community should have more for kids to do, like a skate park,” she said. That would keep her sons and others from trying to ride their skateboards in areas where they end up getting in trouble with the police, she added.

Two residents whose trees were damaged or destroyed in the weekend spree refused to speak to reporters visiting the North Suffolk neighborhood off of Shoulders Hill Road on Monday. One of them cited a fear of retaliation.

“The next time, it could be our cars,” she said, before retreating inside her home.

Suffolk police currently have no suspects in the acts of vandalism, according to city spokeswoman Debbie George, who asked any neighborhood residents who may have heard or seen anything unusual late Friday or early Saturday to call Crime Line at 1-888-Lock-U-Up. Crime Line callers to not have to give their names or appear in court. If a caller’s information leads to an arrest, the caller can qualify for a reward of up to $1,000.