MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Anoka County Sheriff’s office is asking for the public’s help in finding whoever is responsible for setting playgrounds on fire.
Six fires have been set at different parks throughout the city of Andover over the past couple months.
The most-damaging fire happened last Thursday at Shadowbrook Park. Police say it caused about $50,000 worth of damage.
Shadowbrook is known as a family park; a place where parents and kids like to spend sunny, fall afternoons. But instead of playing, neighbors spent Wednesday observing the work of an arsonist.
“They don’t see the after-effects of these faces that say, ‘Where can we go to play on the playground? When are we going to get a new playground?’ Because their favorite stuff is gone,” said parent Stephen Landry.
Investigators said the first arson case at an Andover park was a couple months ago, when a small recycling can was set on fire.
Since then, dumpsters and port-a-potties have also been torched. And now, whoever is responsible destroyed the Shadowbrook playground.
“We know from past practice that small fires turn into big fires. We don’t want that to happen,” said Andover Fire Chief Jerry Streich.
The city has removed dozens of port-a-potties, and they cut down trees to make Shadowbrook Park more visible. Surveillance signs have also gone up at parks, letting visitors know that they are being watched.
“It’s really a crime against people,” Streich said. “From a chief’s perspective, it puts my firefighters at risk just responding to these, but it also puts fear in the community.”
And it has left kids without a place to play, and put parents on high alert.
“It makes me angry and sad,” Streich said. “It’s a deplorable act and I just can’t find a reason why somebody would want to do this.”
Between what has happened at Shadowbrook and at other parks, Chief Streich estimates that there is about $56,000 worth of damage.
They are offering a $5,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest. Anyone who might have seen something suspicious or who has information should call the Minnesota Arson Tip Line at 1-800-723-2020. Callers must also submit a reward application.
Anyone with information about the suspect or suspects can also call the Anoka County Sheriff’s office at 763-427-1212.