CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Their anger was obvious.
"These juveniles need to have their feet held to the fire!" commented one person at the end of the Gazette's online article about teen vandals who trashed a Charleston school.
"To do nothing only inspires more kids to do the same."
Said another, "This is probably just the beginning of what they're capable of."
Another: "They should be publicly shamed. Make them stand in front of the school they damaged for a day, then move them to another public place for a day."
Since I was angry myself, I chewed through the comments. The recent local vandalism problem was already fresh in my mind, as it had been a main topic of conversation during our dinner with Desper Lemon, a Ward 7 councilman in St. Albans.
"They did thousands of dollars of damage to the old Parkway Supermarket, spray-painted the church on Forrestal, damaged cars up and down the street," said Lemon. "One 12-year-old boy is responsible for most of it, but his family doesn't have the money to pay for the damage, and you aren't even allowed to print the kid's name in the paper, so nothing happens. He's right back out there."
Lemon is frustrated because even though St. Albans already has a curfew that might help deter some of the vandalism, it isn't being enforced.
When the Vermont home of the late poet Robert Frost was badly vandalized by a group of 28 teenagers, part of their sentence included a requirement to take a class on Frost's poetry.
"I was thinking if these teens had a better understanding of who Robert Frost was and his contribution to society, they might be more respectful of other people's property in the future and learn something from the experience," said the prosecutor.
I like that the prosecutor was willing to try something different with the offenders, but my thinking is more aligned with those commenting on the newspaper's site, which is basically that the vandals need to be forced to clean up their own mess. Until a person has spent hours trying to scrub spray paint off brick, they don't fully appreciate the stupidity and senselessness of the damage they've caused.