A rash of vandalism in Frederick-area neighborhoods in recent weeks has left dozens of vehicles defaced, numerous tires flattened and windshields cracked, houses egged and buildings spray-painted.
A little more than a week ago, vandals even removed a 4-foot-tall statue of St. Jude from its post at an Emmitsburg church and smashed it into pieces. St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes.
The church crime was only one of 234 destruction of property cases reported to the Frederick County Sheriff's Office from Aug. 1 to Sept. 27, according to Cpl. Jennifer Bailey.
"Property crime seems to be what we're responding to most often," including burglaries, vandalism and destruction of property cases, Bailey said.
Damage resulting from those crimes ranged from a small amount of money to hundreds and even thousands of dollars to repair.
"Fifty dollars to replace a mailbox may seem insignificant to some people. But for others, it's not," Bailey said. "That $50 might be their family's grocery money, and without it, they might not be able to eat."
The vandalism isn't confined to just the county. During those same eight weeks, the Frederick Police Department took 156 reports of destruction of property, Capt. Kevin Grubb said.
Maryland State Police responded to 25 property crimes in Mount Airy and Walkersville, Detective Sgt. Wayne Wachsmuth said. Police in Brunswick took 31 reports and police in Thurmont, 12.
Midweek last week, police in the City of Frederick were hard-pressed to recall any recent property damage crime sprees.
And then the weekend arrived -- and so did the vandals.
Fifty-three tires on 31 vehicles were flattened. "Some cars lost all four," Grubb said Monday.
"A line of people were calling, and it's unfortunate," he said. Not only did they suffer a financial loss for towing fees and for the damage they had to repair, but they were inconvenienced as well by temporarily not having the use of their vehicles.
In August and September, deputies responded most often to Emmitsburg, which had 15 reports. They took 14 complaints each in New Market and Mount Airy and 13 reports from Middletown.
Calls to Frederick mailing addresses outside the Frederick city limits numbered 111, Bailey said.
Town officials in New Market warned residents to keep an eye out on their property -- and their neighbors' property -- and to report anything out of the ordinary to the sheriff's office.
Mailboxes in the small town were destroyed, and lawns were damaged by cars, officials wrote in the town's newsletter.
Bailey said the sheriff's office has been receiving a number of tips since the creation of the agency's Facebook page.
"All calls get assigned to a deputy for follow-up investigation, and areas with repeat calls are put on a patrol checklist," she said.
It's not unusual for Bailey, when reviewing reports each morning, to see at least one, two or three cases of vandalism.
Property crimes are hitting county communities on a daily basis, she said.
Last Wednesday morning, Bailey found seven reports had been filed about vehicles that had had tires slashed or windshields broken along Robin Drive. Reports continued to accumulate until the number reached 17.
Dennis Ebaugh, the facilities manager at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Emmitsburg, was startled when he reported to work about 8 a.m. Sept. 20 and realized the St. Jude statue was missing from the garden between the church rectory and parish center.
The statue hadn't been stolen. The crime was more senseless than that, he said.
The statue, which weighed at least 100 pounds, had been pulled off its stone base and carried around to the side of the building.
"Somebody busted it up," he said, estimating it will cost in the neighborhood of $400 to replace.
The sheriff's office arrested two teenage boys last week in one morning's rash of vehicle vandalism cases along Black Duck Court.