Vandals, Drunks and Panhandlers Ruin It For All Of Us

Some have found downtown Salem to be a fool's paradise.

Many good things have come with our year-round business climate, which has been built by those that have invested their time and money.

Shops and restaurants have worked together to provide products and activities all 12 months of the year. The Salem's So Sweet events of last week would be a prime example of those efforts.

It is unfortunate that there are a few bad apples out there who always find a way to bring a little negative into the equation. 

Usually when windows are broken or other acts of vandalism are committed, the offenders are younger. As a young teen in the early 1970s, I was sometimes guilty of these small acts of foolishness. When the pedestrian mall was first completed, it was lit by short, square lamps that ran along its length. My Point buddies and I smashed a few over the summer one year, but that was all. We were soon encouraged to grow out of that behavior.

It would seem that this winter, it is not just the youth of Salem who have chosen to act the fool.

Last week two men, one who is 47 and another who is 30, were arrested for destroying one of the ice sculptures. This one was a dragon bought and paid for by Bewitched in Salem, a store owned and operated year-round by a native Salem couple. Grown men should not behave in this manner. 

A few days later, a 30-year-old man was arrested for not only destroying an ice sculpture, but also for damaging the Paul Revere Bell at Armory Park. His weapon of choice was, of course, ice from the destroyed sculpture.

Walk the downtown early any Saturday or Sunday morning. It is not unusual to see plants ripped from window boxes, large planters overturned or even windows broken. These are not accidents, and these are not usually acts committed by kids. Most, if not all of these acts, are perpetrated by patrons of local drinking establishments. Those old enough to drink are not kids any longer. 

Most of those who panhandle downtown are also adults. We all know the wheelchair guys. There is one who likes to trap women in their cars by rolling up to their doors as they park. Another one is well known for using his alms for purchasing scratch tickets. Neither is homeless or hungry.

There is a group of brothers who panhandle frequently. One of their favorite things to do with the money they garnered this past summer was to buy cheap dish detergent. If washing pots and pans was the goal, that would not have been terrible. What they did multiple times was pour the detergent into the fountain at Town House Square. I know this because I have pictures of these guys, all in their 50s, pouring the soap into the water.

We should not tolerate this sort of behavior from anybody, but especially from supposed adults. If you see it, report it. Take pictures or videos and forward them to the police, your city councilor and the Mayor's office. There must be consequences, and the businesses victimized deserve restitution.

We all have a voice in this town. One or two voices may not make much noise, but if we put our voices together, there will be both sound and fury. Yell it from the rooftops, Salem. Yell it loud enough for those who choose to be foolish to hear you.

We are the voices in Salem.

  • To contact the Salem Police for a non-emergency call 978-744-1212.
  • For information on contacting your councilor, click here.
Thomas Vallor February 21, 2012 at 04:41 PM
lmao "the wheelchair guys". Totally infamous. I hate how that one dude never actually ASKS for money - he just puts his hand out to you and shouts "HEY!" And he's the one who spends the money on scratch tickets and beer, I have seen it myself.
Erin Cyr February 21, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Even though I advocated approaching offenders in a comment on your dog poop article, I must say that when it comes to people who may not be of sound mind (because of their mental health state, level of inebriation, or whatever) it's not as easy for everyone to stand up for the city. Camera phones are a good weapon, but it would be pretty easy for one to be knocked out of your hand. After October I have found that it's not safe for a woman to be downtown alone after 4 pm. I think some homeless and destitute people get a little more desperate when they get that first taste of cold weather. In the Summer and warmer times they seem less aggressive because having nowhere to warm up isn't as much of an issue. The drunks work in the opposite way, staying out later and acting crazier in the warmer evenings. I know there is a camera on the Common, are there any on the pedestrian mall?
Harold February 21, 2012 at 05:18 PM
When a city and it's leadership (The Mayor, state rep, etc) entices homeless shelters, low income housing, poor performing schools, methadone clinics, garbage dumps,etc to the area what you get is above average crime, vandals, dog crap everywhere, drunks, broken bottles, drug addicts, garbage and people who just don't care about anything but themsleves here in the city. Bill, Maybe an interview with Mayor Driscoll and what her vision of salem is should be is in order. Let's hope someone runs against her in the next election cycle. It would be nice if the Patch would raise the bar when it comes to asking the mayor tough questions. We all know the SEN won't.
Jared Robinson February 21, 2012 at 05:19 PM
does this guy have a weird speech impediment? I gave money to some wheelchair guy recently because he seemed pretty mental.
Kathleen McDonald February 21, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Didn't read the article because "Drunks and panhandlers" was so offensive. You may have a lot of value to say in your article but these titles are pretty ignorant.
Jared Robinson February 21, 2012 at 05:26 PM
I'm sorry... is there another way to say this? Alcoholics and Beggars, perhaps?
john February 21, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Be very careful when making negative statements about Salem. You likely will be told to run for office or move. As for the mayor,she is in denial.
john February 21, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Do you realy think everyone in a wheel chair cant walk? My mother was in a wheel chair for years with COPD and she could walk.
Jared Robinson February 21, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Things are definitely in a downward slide in terms of the culture of this city... it's starting to remind me of the Salem I knew from the 90s and early 00s... A lot more crime and violence reported... the city is starting to look dumpy and businesses aren't really flourishing here.
Jared Robinson February 21, 2012 at 05:44 PM
powerchair = Hoveround/Rascal?
Justin Mattera February 21, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Unfortunately these few people are drunk and panhandle. There are many homeless people in Salem that are not drunk and don't panhandle. This article was not about them. The article is about the young men and women who destroy pieces of art that I helped pay for. I did this for your enjoyment. I will call these people what they are. They are drunk, destructive and immature. Some are also panhandlers.
William Legault February 21, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Ignorance is a broad term that is often applied in a very narrow manner. If those who panhandle in order to further their substance abuse, and consistently refuse help from family, friends, and society choosing instead to impose and blame their "afflictions" on the rest of society are not drunks and panhandlers then what are they? Would ignorant apply? I know what Bill W. would say. He wasn't much for blaming his problems on others.
John Sindoni February 21, 2012 at 06:51 PM
High Five Bill for your comment about Bill W.!
Cindy Johnson February 21, 2012 at 09:11 PM
"Property transformers, anti-sobriety activists, and asset reducers ruin downtown for everyone." I think Bill's headline is better. We shouldn't normalize bad behavior in society by putting a different label on it to make it sound better.
Michael Berry February 21, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.
Diane Wolf February 22, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Kathleen, I have to say, having dealt with these same recurring characters over the past five years that I have owned a business downtown - they truly are drunks and panhandlers. Yes, it is offensive. Their behavior is offensive as well - toward me, my employees, my customers and my fellow citizens. I've reached out to the police, Lifebridge and other agencies and it is very frustrating to me, as a civilian, to not be able to help these people change their behavior or their situation. All that is left for me to do, is call the police when I see them break the law. I kind of see it as my duty to refuse to look the other way, condone their behavior, or candy-coat what they are doing. Yes, they need help, but calling them by another name isn't going to do it.
David H February 22, 2012 at 02:51 PM
You've got to be kidding me. If you're offended by those simple (and accurate) little words you should be out-of-your mind outraged at what they're turning our city into. Sadly Kathleen, you're hung up on the wrong thing.
Nelson Dionne February 22, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Back in the 30's & 40's, there was a group of a dozen or so "Bums" that the police called "The Board of Directors". They slept in doorways, could be found waiting at the door to open "cafe's" like the Alamo at 8 AM. The train depot smelled like a huge urinal;because that's what they used it for. Salem was a different place then. The last of this group survived in Salem until the early 80's, still drunk & stinking from vomit. Their kin still live on in the edges of our world. . The friends of Bill W. do what they can as do others. Not nice, but they represent a small part of society that will, in some way , always be with us.
Justin Mattera February 22, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I can only imagine.......
john February 22, 2012 at 06:33 PM
I have seen some of these undesireables sitting in the bus shelter outside the Tavern restaraunt for hours at a time.SPD drive by that location all day long yet they continue to hang out there. Although the shelter does not allow these people in,I think the shelter is a big factor in attracting them to Salem. The mayor and police chief support the shelter I suppose because they feel without it the problem would be much worse. We also have known sex offenders walking the streets and the needle problem has become a daily occurence. As this problem continues to grow it will have a very negative impact on the tourist season. I have seen the faces of tourists shocked by some of what they see and many times I see fear in their faces. What's the solution? In a free society even a homeless drunk has rights.
Diane Wolf February 23, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Added a photo and video.
William Legault February 23, 2012 at 01:41 AM
These are the guys that spent the summer soaping the Town House Square fountain. Defend them all you want — just remember, every time that fountain gets soaped it must be drained, bleached, and re-filled. This process takes time and money....taxpayer money, your money. Thanks for posting this Dee.
john February 23, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Last summer the fountain was not even on most of the time and the one at museum place is falling apart and I dont recall seeing any water there all summer
William Legault February 23, 2012 at 02:31 AM
The fountain at Museum Place was not on all last summer. It has no water pump. The fountain at Town House square was on and filled last summer but was shut down four different times because it was soaped. The video posted in this thread was filmed during one of those incidents last summer. After the fourth and final soap incident the fountain was left dry for the remainder of the season.
john February 23, 2012 at 02:47 AM
I am curious if the water pump could have been replaced in exchange for the $60k we are paying for the empty parking lot on Derby St? The museum place fountain is in severe disrepair. Another Question for the mayor!!
William Legault February 23, 2012 at 03:01 AM
The situation with both fountains distress me. The one at Museum Place tells the story of Salem and its far east trade. Every time I walk by and see it's condition I feel sadness. Having experience with budgets and priorities I understand that sometimes small items will fall by the wayside. Understanding this does not mean that I like it.
Jared Robinson February 23, 2012 at 03:31 AM
I don't get it, why do they do it? just to be jerks?
Mac H Lee February 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM
I moved to Salem 10 years ago and fell in love with the city. Now I don't feel comfortable walking in the downtown area b/c I'm constantly harassed for money, ciggs and now some even ask for drugs. I go out to do my errands early in the morning and get home quickly. In addition to the vandals and aggressive panhandlers there are 68 level three sex offenders listed in Salem. I won't bring my nieces and nephews here b/c it's a joke. I for sure don't feel very safe. Heck some of the local establishments even hire the level 3's to play music. (aka Preacher Jack) so if they don't see any problems with the element why would I want to patronize their business. I love the Shanty and will go there in the afternoon when friends and family visit but otherwise I'm staying in with the door locked.
john February 23, 2012 at 08:51 PM
This is one of the reasons I take issue with our current administration. During tourist season, the area of Essex St between the two fountains is the heartbeat of the downtown area. How much can a pump cost? PEM just offered up some money to the city for the property they purchased. I am amazed that all the trees have lights on at night when we have other important things to do with our money.Is the real reason the problems that the fountains invite,like dogs,kids,soap and homeless people in the water? Two years ago I witnessed a women in the fountain at the square on a hot day. She was rolling around like a child. Salem Police came and ordered her out and checked her ID before allowing her to leave. As I watched the horror on the faces of tourists and residents I felt embarresed and ashamed at what was going on and I could see the Police Officer may have felt the same. P
Thomas Monaco May 30, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Anyone Remember CB?? The sailor man? What about Bozo? They used to sleep in the morgy boxes on riley plaza.


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