Local playground is vandalized

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Two children are in custody after they're accused of setting a new school playground on Rockford's north west side on fire.

"Lately, it's gotten very bad. This neighborhood's just going downhill," says nearby resident, maria, when speaking of the state of her neighborhood.

Maria has lived across the street from Galapagos school for three years.

"It's been a lot of shootings, a lot of gang activity, a lot of drug deals," she reflects, when speaking of the area.

Maria says she was shocked to find that a new playground that had just been built in may was on fire.

"We turned around, and we seen smoke coming from the park. I had my mom go inside and call the police. I hopped in my car and caught the three little boys down the street and stopped them for the police to come talk to them."

"We actually believe that we brought a beautiful asset to the community that's being used, not just by our Galapagos scholars, but by other people in the community, so when we found out that part of the playground been vandalized, it was definitely very saddening," says Galapagos Charter School CEO, Michael Lane.

Local fire crews say this is more common than we might think.

"We've found that juveniles are involved in about half of our arson fires."

Fire crews say $300 million dollars a year are spent nation-wide because of damage caused by fires set by kids, almost 900 people are also hurt by these types of fires, and more than 100 die.

Maria says it's up to parents to stop it.

"Where are their parents? Because my son's 9 years old, and he's like, 'Can I ride my bike over there?' No. Not unless I'm with you."

The Rockford Fire Department has a Juvenile Fire-starter Intervention program. If any parents are concerned that their child may be interested in setting fires, they can contact the Fire Department for more information. Right now, that program has a 0% recidivism rate.