It’s homecoming season, and local high school students are keeping with tradition by pulling pranks. However, many property owners don’t find the pranks funny, and they’re calling the law.
The result is a number of teenagers being arrested on criminal trespass charges. The lucky ones are simply made to clean up their mess, but those who go a step beyond playful pranks may end up with felony charges, according to local law enforcement.
Within the last few days of September, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department made reports on at least seven incidents where someone threw rolls of toilet paper over trees and power lines, dumped shredded paper in yards, painted vehicle windows, shot homes with paint balls and committed other offenses on private property.
And Monday, several teenagers were arrested on criminal trespass charges after they threw eggs and shot paint balls at a residence inside the Statesboro city limits.
Jordan Dijon Hendrix, 17, Sweetheart Lane; Christopher Darrell Mobley, 17, Sweetheart Lane; Lorenzo M. Johnson Jr., 18, Lee Street; Miles Donovan Lewis, 17, Zetwell Road; Kentavious Kendall West, 18, Miller Street Extension; Lamar Shamil Stimage, 17, Cone Homes; and Yukali Elizabeth Ikuta, 18, East Main Street were all charged with criminal trespass after a complainant called police to report the incident.
“Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor,” said Statesboro Police Capt. Scott Brunson. “But criminal damage to property is a felony.” If the damage done to a home or vehicle is $500 or more, the offenders can be charged with criminal damage to property, he said.
Toilet paper in the bushes and shredded paper on the lawn can be aggravating to remove, but eggs thrown against a vehicle can damage the paint, resulting in a costly repair.
Trespassing can be dangerous
In recent years “paint ball wars” between high school juniors and seniors has become popular, he said. The paint ball residue may be washable, but people still don’t appreciate the annoyance of waking up to a yard and home covered in paint and toilet paper.
The danger is when teens trespass onto private property at night, said Bulloch County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Gene McDaniel. “I’d be hesitant to go out there at night. It can be a dangerous thing.”
Homeowners often have guns and upon being awakened in the middle of the night by pranksters damaging their homes, the situation could quickly turn bad, he said.
“People have guns in their houses,” he said. “You could wind up getting hurt.”
And some of the pranks being pulled are more than just annoying: they can pose a danger to unsuspecting victims.
Some pranksters are putting petroleum jelly, cooking oil and other substances on door handles and stair rails. Injuries could occur as a result of this kind of joke, he said.
The pranks are widespread. Over the past weekend, incidents took place at various locations across the county.
Friday, a Brooklet-Denmark Road man said he went outside to get his morning newspaper and found his house splattered with paint balls, which also struck his vehicle, according to reports. A Walden Way man found his home struck by paint balls as well.
The same morning, a Newton Road woman found her yard “rolled,” shredded paper dumped in her driveway and syrup poured on her front porch, reports stated.
A Banks Dairy Road woman called sheriff’s deputies Saturday morning to report her yard “rolled” with toilet paper. She said someone had rung her doorbell, and when she answered, she saw toilet paper hanging from all her trees and her son’s truck windows painted yellow and white. The offenders, whom she could not see well enough to identify, were driving off in a truck, she said.
An Old Hardy Place Road man found his yard rolled, ketchup in his mail box, and bottles of cooking oil and syrup in his yard. He said he chased the culprits but was not able to catch them, according to reports.
The offenders who rolled yards at a U.S. 80 West residence and a home at Trufail Crossing were not so fortunate, but fared better than the teens arrested in Statesboro. Deputies reported that in both incidents, the teens were given a choice between cleaning up or going to jail. All four teens involved in the two incidents chose to clean up the mess they made, according to reports by Bulloch County Sheriff’s Deputy Jody Deal.
Law enforcement officers have words of advice to teens who want to play pranks.
“Don’t jeopardize our future over a silly prank,” Brunson said. “You’ll get a criminal record and somebody’s going to get hurt.”
“You’ll wind up with a criminal record for being stupid,” McDaniel said.”And there is no need to cry when you’re in the back seat of a police car going to jail. There’s no need to blame your friends. Look into the mirror and you’ll see who is to blame.”