Security patrols through the Esplanade are likely to be increased after a series of arson attacks inside the popular Palmerston North park.
The latest fire, discovered at the children's playground about 7.30am yesterday, left a patch of rubber matting charred, while toilet paper stolen from a nearby cleaning cupboard was strewn across the equipment.
It was the second fire at the playground this month, and the third in the area since the beginning of last month.
Palmerston North City Council property manager John Brenkley said random visits by security guards were the cheapest and most effective deterrent. The council's contract for security could be varied to provide extra cover.
Mr Brenkley said the area was deliberately kept dark at night to make visibility difficult for anyone intending to commit a crime there.
The downside to installing cameras was it would be difficult to source ones that could catch people in the dark. It would be an expensive exercise to install enough cameras to cover the 21-hectare area.
Mr Brenkley said closing the gates to stop vehicular traffic at night helped, but people could still come from all directions on foot.
Detective Sergeant Dave Thompson said police were working with the council to make the area safer.
The Community Patrol group would be monitoring the area and police would also patrol it more often, he said.
So far there had only been "nuisance" incidents, but there was concern about what could happen if a fire took hold."They have the potential for far more significant property damage."
An Esplanade gardener said he had to clear all the toilet paper, which had been taken from the cupboard the vandals broke into.
He put cones around the burnt area of the rubber matting to alert children to it.
A further playground fire, on June 16, burnt a chair and rubbish bin near a toilet block. The fire failed to take hold and was discovered by a security guard.
Earlier that night a man was assaulted by a group of five or six youths near the Esplanade.
The nearby Twin Turfs complex had two hockey goals, at the southern end of the fields, set alight on June 2. The fire damaged the goalposts, nets and turf.
Police say all the fires could be linked.
Cafe Esplanade owner Glen Vivian welcomed the plans to beef up security. The cafe had been hit by 16 burglaries and an arson attack in the last three years.
"I think the more security the better, quite honestly," he said.
"It's abandoned at night and it does open itself up to petty crime."
He said the past few months had not been too bad, apart from youths messing around with the cafe's outdoor staff area.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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