News 12 at 6 o'clock, June 6, 2008
JOHNSTON, S.C.---Authorities found vandalism all across a small town, including smashed windows and spray-painted graffiti. Neighbors are upset after one of their most treasured landmarks is damaged.
"In a small town, this is, this is very noticeable," said Thomas Herlong. He grew up in Johnston and remembers when the town put up a mural 20 years ago in the center of town.
"I think if you had to pick one spot, it probably is a very strong place for them to make a statement," he said.
The landmark is now tagged with graffiti. It's hard to miss the bold markings since it's in the heart of downtown.
The mural's used to honor people who've made a difference to the community, but now the first thing the eye sees is the spray paint.
"It's a slap in the face when you have to ride by and look what somebody's done, that means a lot to everybody here," said Police Chief Chris Aston.
The city hopes to get rid of the graffiti very soon but is waiting for an insurance adjuster to figure out how much it will cost. They've spent more than $12,000 on the mural since it was created in 1988.
"The cost is a factor, but really I think that's not the main factor. I think the main thing is people just...the lack of respect, said Herlong.
The chief isn't sure who did it, but says it may be the work of gang members.
"We're gonna take it serious because we can't afford to have the taxpayers property vandalized, and we're concerned about the public safety," said Chief Aston.
Herlong says he won't let this change how he feels about his hometown, but hopes others will rethink how they leave their mark on this city.
The vandals didn't just hit the town mural. They spray-painted cars and signs all around the city and also smashed in car windows.
If you know anything about these crimes, call the Johnston Police Department.