By Karen Zautyk
If you had occasion to drive or walk along Elm St. between Midland and Oakwood Aves. recently, you had to have noticed the illiterately obscene graffiti defacing multiple homes.
Siding, retaining walls, garage doors, etc., on both sides of the block had been spray-painted with meaningless scrawls and a specific sentiment: F–k KPD. Or, more accurately: F-k KPD.
We are not sure if the vandal’s turning a four-letter word into a three-letter one was indicative of some sort of texting shorthand or if he just can’t spell.
In any case, the graffiti is now gone, thanks to a community- service-minded local painter, John Donovan, who was on Elm St. early Saturday morning along with two helpers, diligently repairing the damage.
Equally reassuring is that the alleged culprit was arrested.
According to Kearny police, the saga began last month, when, on March 2-3 and March 3-4, a total of 15 vandalism incidents were reported on the block.
The residents whose homes were defiled with red and brown paint might be called the lucky ones. According to KPD Capt. Stephen Durkin, commander of the Detective Bureau, damage to their properties was estimated at about $500 each. But a car had also been targeted — twice. The owner had it cleaned up. And it was vandalized again. The cost of repairing the motor vehicle has been estimated at $4,000.
In their efforts to ID a suspect, Kearny detectives canvassed the neighborhood and spoke to the victims, many of whom were senior citizens, Durkin noted. They also located four separate private security surveillance cameras along the block, which became invaluable assets.
Considering the anti-KPD message, Det. Scott Traynor and Sgt. John View began reviewing recent Kearny arrest records and learned that, on Feb. 26, the Vice Unit had collared one Eric Lorenzo, 19, for alleged distribution of a CDS, Durkin said.
Lorenzo, who reportedly was verbally abusive to the cops, was sent to the Hudson County Jail on the 26th, but posted bail and was released March 2 (the same date the graffiti began to appear).
Lorenzo also lives on Elm St., between Midland and Oakwood Aves., police said.
And, coincidentally, he had been posting disparaging remarks about the Kearny police on his Facebook page, not in private messages but for the world to view, police reported.
However, the compelling evidence came from a review of those security camera videos, which, on both nights during which the vandalism occurred, had caught an individual in the act, an individual who was seen leaving and entering the building where Lorenzo lives, police said. Further detective work led to the suspect’s arrest March 12.
Lorenzo has made no admission of guilt, Durkin said last week, but he has been charged with 15 counts of criminal mischief.
On Saturday morning, we went to Elm St. to meet John Donovan, co-owner with Fred Kroog, of John Donovan Painting of Kearny. Both he and Kroog were Kearny-born and raised, and Donovan told us, “It’s a good thing to give back a little bit to the community.”
He and his helpers, Deaglan Walsh of East Newark and Martin Macedonio of Kearny, were doing all the repair work on the homes for free — donating time and labor.
Also donated were the paint, from Arlington Hardware in Kearny, and block and primer from Sherwin Williams, North Arlington.
Donovan said he had originally gotten a call from one of the victims for a repair estimate. But when he saw the extent of the damage on the street, and considering that many of the victims were senior citizens, he reached out to the KPD. Sgt. Peter Caltabellotta and Officer Jack Corbett of the Community Policing (COP) Unit coordinated the clean-up project.
“It’s a community service,” Donovan said, paint brush in hand and heading for yet another graffiti-blighted home.