star1Updated 11/15/2012
Two Lansing men were arrested Tuesday morning for defacing town and school property with graffiti, causing more than $8000 worth of damage to town parks and school property.  After an exhaustive month-long investigation Mason Golden (19) and Cosmo Weldon (17) were charged with two counts each of Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree (D felony) and two counts of Making Graffiti (a class A misdemeanor).  Lansing Park Superintendent Steve Colt credits the Tompkins County Sheriff's Department and Deputy Sheriff Peter Walker for doggedly pursuing the investigation.

"I think people will be glad to hear that the police never stopped," Colt says.  "Pete Walker and some of the other guys -- they never stopped.  Just because it wasn't in the headlines as much as when it happened, it didn't mean things weren't happening.  They were all along.  That's why it's nice that it came to this conclusion."

The incidents occurred last month.  Property including the iconic Lansing lighthouse and bluestone memorial benches and plaques were spray painted in Myers Park.  The vandals also spray painted the gazebo in  Ludlowville Park, the former Lansing Central School District Office, and the Lansing High School concessions building and sidewalks at the football field.

Colt says many Lansing residents have been anxious for fast results, calling the Parks and Recreation Department to get updates on the progress of the investigation.  Colt says he is pleased with the thoroughness of the investigation that led to Tuesday's arrests.

"I think some people were just getting impatient," Colt says.  "I talked to Ken Lansing to get his advice on how to handle a reward.  He was very helpful, and he also said, 'this isn't a 60 minute episode of CSI.'  Real police work takes a while."

$1,700 of damage was done to school property.  Almost $7,000 of damage was inflicted on town property at Myers and Ludlowville Parks.  Colt says repairs to the lighthouse will be most expensive, as it will have to be treated with a special mortar mix that coats the structure.  Bluestone memorial benches and plaques will also require special treatment.  Other paint was removed with professional-grade  graffiti removing chemicals provided by a Ludlowville playground design company, Parkitects Inc.

The incident gained sympathy far beyond Lansing.  After reading an article about the graffiti damage in the Lansing Star Philadelphia-based cleaning supply company CleanItSupply offered to donate graffiti-removing chemicals.  The company has an initiative to help vandalized communities, recently involving 50 people in a 'flash cleanup' in Philadelphia's Love Park.  Colt says he is grateful, but the chemicals already provided by Parkitects were enough to complete the job.

graffitidamageAmong the damaged property was (clockwise from top left) the Lansing lighthouse, Myers Park Playground, and the Ludlowville Park gazebo

Colt says the town was prepared to offer a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest, but the Sheriff's Department solved the case before it could get official approval by the Town Board.  If the case hadn't broken when it did he says the reward would have been proffered.

Four people were involved in the incident, but officials say that the two who were arraigned Tuesday actually painted town and school property.  A third may be charged later.  Golden and Weldon appeared before Judge David Banfield Tuesday.  They were released to the supervision of their parents or the Tompkins County Probation Department, and will appear before a grand jury for possible indictment.

Details of the investigation are not being released because it is ongoing.  Colt gives high marks to the Sheriff's Department, noting that some deputies live in the Town and feet as strongly about bringing whoever defaced the parks to justice as he and many others in the Town do.

"Like all the policemen who live in and out of town, they take their jobs seriously," he says.  "I think it was good police work where you have contacts and you keep talking and listening.  A secret's a secret until you tell one other person.  The next person you tell, it's not a secret any more, and I think when you have multiple people involved in something like this it's going to come out."

"I really want to thank Pete Walker," Lansing High School Principal Eric Hartz told the Board Of Education Tuesday evening.  Hartz has been working closely with the Sheriff's Department as they investigated the crime.  "Pete is a Lansing resident who has kids here.  Pete has put personal hours and time into this case.  There is no question that it has paid off for us.  And also (Deputy) Dawn Caulkins.  She was instrumental, too.  Our Sheriff's Department has truly been amazing in this situation."

Lansing residents were outraged by the incident, which involved hate slogans and symbols painted on community-built projects like the lighthouse and the Myers Park playground.  That may be why the two men's attorneys reportedly asked for a closed hearing Tuesday, which was held in the small courtroom a half hour before open court was to begin. They are scheduled to appear again in the Lansing Town Court on November 27th.

"We're very grateful to the Sheriff's Department, to the media that covered it, and the folks that were able to help solve it," Colt says.  "We took an awful lot of phone calls.  There were a lot of people that wanted to donate money to the reward.  I know they'll be happy to hear about this."