It's not unusual on summer mornings to find empty bottles, cigarette butts and used condoms littering the grounds at any number of the Fair Lawn parks that serve as late night hangouts for area teens.
Disgusted residents have brought the issue to the borough's attention on multiple occasions, borough manager Tom Metzler said. While each complaint is taken seriously and addressed, finding a permanent solution to the problem has proven elusive.
The borough has tried discouraging kids from hanging at parks after hours by turning off field lights and emphasizing police and auxiliary police checks, but there isn't a whole lot that can be done to curb the problem short of having a police officer sit at the park all night long, Metzler said.
Parks Department crews take the issue personally and try to hit every one of the parks to clean up litter and graffiti on a daily basis, but they don't always arrive in time to spare residents from the sight of the previous night's carnage.
Community volunteers whose organizations adopt parks to clean on a regular basis have at times found them in "horrible" condition.
"Diapers, wipes, water bottle, food and containers, condoms and cigarette butts are the most common things around," an email to Patch from one volunteer reads. "Between one week and the next, 3 swings were broken and unusable, and other equipment was defaced."
The volunteer said he didn't blame the town, but rather the people who use the park and fail to take care of it.
"One of our members asked a litterer why she didn't clean up after herself, and the response was, roughly, 'Well...the town cleans up so I don't have to.'" he said. "It's crazy that some people seem to have lost their ability to take responsibility for themselves and pride in the community."
While there is no denying that littering and vandalism at the parks takes place, both Metzler and Sgt. Richard Schultz said it has been no worse this year than in years past. In fact, Schultz said the problem has improved significantly since his early days on the force in the 1980s and '90s.