By JENNIFER HORTONThe Wilson Post
A Watertown restaurant owner believes local police are doing the best they can, but incidences of vandalism and break-ins in this city have been increasing the past six months or so causing residents and others business owners concern.
Lisa Chesley’s restaurant, Nona Lisa Pizzeria, has been struck twice recently by some teenage boys. The most recent incident occurred either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning at the eatery and also at another one, Mi Ranchito Mexican Restaurant which is located in a building that is owned by Chesley and her husband, Jay.
Chesley said she has been told that there has been an arrest made in the vandalism and that the suspect is a minor.
“There are some teens in town that have been causing trouble for a while,” she said Thursday.
Chesley said she believes the group of teens is between the ages of 13-17.
“They are not afraid of the law,” she noted, adding the teens are often out after curfew which is 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and midnight, Friday and Saturday.
Chesley’s noted that the Mexican restaurant was burglarized for the second time. The suspect or suspects broke a window in the back door after they apparently tried and failed to get in through the front door. Upon entering, a cash register was taken. Concrete urns that served as planters outside of the pizzeria owned by Chesley were turned over and broken, also.
She said she has been told that two boys have been arrested.
Other businesses in Watertown have been struck by vandals recently as well, she said, citing the Vance Law Office which had a mailbox damaged, and a hamburger wagon located behind Lulu’s Coffee House had a butcher knife stolen.
Elderly people in Watertown are afraid of the teens, also, and have reported to authorities someone knocking on their doors late at night.
There have also been incidents of intimidation by teens and the use of profanity and obscene gestures toward others in the community.
Chesley said residents and business owners have filed complaints with Watertown Police Department regarding the crimes and she believed they were doing the best they could.
“They don’t have the manpower and the money to put (more) officers out here,” she said, adding that if the teens see an officer at one place in town they send a text message to their friends telling them his location and then they go elsewhere to commit their crimes.
It had gotten to the point, she said, that her husband, Jay, a local real estate agent, has spent the night at their businesses in an attempt to catch whoever is responsible for the crimes committed against them.
A local businessman recently confronted a teenage boy who was with other teens on his property. The man reportedly put his finger on the boy’s chest and told him to get off the property. The boy told his father who in turn filed a complaint against the businessman who was arrested on a charge of assault.
Another teenage boy who witnessed the incident reportedly has said there was no assault involved, but the matter will be decided in court at a later date.
Chesley noted the Square was recently the site of “a big brawl,” which resulted in the arrests of four teenage boys.
Recently, two boys set fire to a field that was near a residence, and one of them was charged with arson, she noted.
She said some of the teens are from Watertown while others are from elsewhere in Wilson County.
Responding to whether she thought the criminal acts were gang-related. Chesley said, “To me, they are a gang. We just don’t know enough.”
A meeting was held on Wednesday between concerned citizens, Mayor Mike Jennings and WPD Chief Joe Hall to discuss the recent wave of crimes and what can be done to resolve the situation.
Hall and Jennings were away from their offices on Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
The feeling of safety she once felt in Watertown is now gone, Chesley said, noting, “I never would have thought about locking the doors. Now we lock everything. It’s just not safe. A lot of people don’t want to speak up because they are afraid.”
Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.