Last April, two men in their 20s rammed an information booth with their vehicle, destroyed signs and tore up posts at Priest Lake’s Luby Bay Campground.
The case was unusual because of the amount of damage - about $4,000 - and the fact that the criminals were caught and paid restitution.
“They said they were bored that evening,” recalled Forest Service law officer Dave Major. “They decided to go out and have some fun.”
That kind of fun might be called “acting out” by psychologists. They have various theories about such behavior, which is hard for most people to understand.
Most vandals are young men. Often poorly educated, many are seeking retaliation for the cards that life has dealt them, said Quint Thurman, an associate professor of criminal justice at Washington State University.
“These are kids who don’t feel ownership in a family, a society or a school system. They say, ‘If I can’t have it, no one else is entitled to enjoy it, either,”’ Thurman said.
“Another theory is that these kids can’t control a lot of things in their life, so they’re going to control something. If they can’t be really good at something … they’re going to be really bad.”
David Fair, parks director in Post Falls, categorizes those people as “willfully destructive.”
Fair - whose city’s facilities suffered $13,391 worth of vandalism in 16 recent months - listed three other types of vandals:
Those who don’t look at themselves as vandals. That includes graffiti “artists” who feel they have a right to express themselves.
People who add to existing vandalism or litter because it’s there. That’s why managers try to repair damage as quickly as possible.
People trying to make a statement. They want to walk their pet in the park, for example, so they destroy the “no dogs” sign. Or they send an anti-government message by destroying public property.
Some vandals are just thoughtless, such as fishermen who start warming fires on a public dock.
Still others are what Stan Fox of the Natural Resource Conservation Service calls “overly curious.” They’re the ones who pry open field equipment to see what’s there.