Four men were arrested Wednesday night in connection with the recent arson in Houghton Park that left new shelters and park benches charred black.
The men, who were between the ages of 17 and 20, were charged with arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, according to Michael J. DeGeorge, spokesman for the Buffalo Police Department.
He said the investigation is ongoing and further arrests are possible.
The names of the four arrested men were not immediately released.
Common Council President Richard A. Fontana, who represents the Lovejoy District where the Kaisertown park is located, said police received an anonymous tip earlier in the week that led to the arrest.
He said the city intends to “aggressively” prosecute those responsible for destroying and defacing park property, adding that he plans to ask the judge to add 1,000 hours of community service to each culprit’s sentence.
“I want those guys scrubbing streets with toothbrushes,” Fontana said of the trouble-makers.
At least one of the accused vandals is a repeat offender who burned down a park shelter previously, Fontana said.
The city increased police patrols and deployed its anti-graffiti team in the park in the aftermath of the arson, DeGeorge said. Now, city officials are working to place security cameras in the park as a further deterrent.
Though Fontana welcomed the potential addition of the cameras, he rued the fact that such measures were necessary in what he described as an otherwise beautiful and law-abiding neighborhood.
“We shouldn’t have to make this thing a fortress just because four idiots wanted to burn things down,” he said.
Mark Williamson, owner of the Bowl-Inn Bowling Center on Bailey Avenue, welcomed the news of the arrests.
Williamson has been one of the park’s most outspoken proponents since the arson. After Fontana offered $200 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the damage, Williamson and fellow business owner John Murphy of O’Connell-Murphy Funeral Home chipped in $1,200 toward the reward.
Williamson said he was fully committed to paying the promised reward money to whoever tipped police off, saying, “To get results this quick is money well-spent.”
He also praised the long line of community members and businesses that stepped forward to offer their support of the park.
“I think this is a big, big statement to anyone out there that in South Buffalo, we will come together” in times of need, Williamson said.
Williamson is planning a benefit for the park Oct. 6 in his bowling alley.