Vandalism in Bigfork Prompts Security Camera Discussions

By Beacon Staff

Bigfork has seen an unusual rash of vandalism this summer, resulting in thousands of dollars worth of damage and prompting some in the business community to discuss the need for security cameras in the village’s downtown.

The incidents include early morning property destruction, such as vandals throwing a birdbath from outside the village’s theater through the door of Persimmon Gallery, as well as knocking over a bronze statue near another gallery, pulling down a decorative wooden bear, breaking pottery and destroying a display case.

Outside of the direct downtown area, a driver ran into the sign on Highway 35 pointing toward the village, damaging part of the sign and leaving the scene of the accident without reporting it.

Bigfork High School was also hit by vandalism, including one incident in which the perpetrators ransacked the football field’s concession stand.

While some vandalism is an unfortunate reality in most towns, the number of cases over the summer have resulted in law enforcement increasing patrols in the area.

“We’re certainly putting some extra effort into the investigation,” Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said. “They’ve done thousands of dollars of damage down there.” Curry said investigators have interviewed “quite a few” suspects, based on tips and previous run-ins with the law.

Community members, motivated by the vandalism, have begun discussing the potential need for security cameras in downtown Bigfork.

“People have talked about the cameras for a long time,” Paul Mutascio, of the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork, said. “It’s just like, how bad does this have to get before we really get serious about it?”

Mutascio said he and several business owners discussed the possibility of heightened security after a bank camera helped nab the driver who hit the Bigfork sign on Highway 35.

While the individual was not visible in the security footage, authorities could identify the tow truck company the driver called to move her car, which had become stuck on the rockwork, Mutascio said.

The CFBB, which owns the sign, had to conduct major repairs after the collision.

“We literally had to rebuild the whole foundation, which cost us a lot of money and more time,” Mutascio said.

Mutascio also owns the building that houses Persimmon Gallery, and said the door destroyed by the birdbath would cost $350 to $400 to replace.

And, he added, vandalism is a typical problem in the winter as well, when Christmas decorations are inevitably torn down or knocked over.

While cameras are being considered, Mutascio stressed that the idea is in the very beginning stages, and comments for and against the concept will be taken seriously as the dialogue continues.

Meanwhile, Bigfork School District plans to place cameras at the football field to deter further vandalism, Eda Taylor, district business manager, said. Schools typically expect some property defacement, but the events of this summer went much further than that.

“I guess you always see some vandalism, but nothing at all like the concession stand,” she said.

The school district is still working with its insurance company to find the bottom line cost of the destruction, but Taylor said it would likely be high.

“I’m sure it’s going to be pretty considerable because so much was damaged and destroyed,” she said.

In other incidences, vandals broke some picnic tables on school grounds and broke a window of a van parked in the parking lot.

Curry encouraged anyone with information on the various acts of vandalism in Bigfork to call the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office at 406-758-5585 or Crimestoppers at 406-752-8477 (TIPS) if the reporting party prefers anonymity.