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Tribune Editorial: Fine line between pranks, vandalism

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Kandiyohi County's move Tuesday to amend its nuisance ordinance provides law enforcement the tools needed when pranks cross the line to vandalism -- during homecoming or any other time.

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Someone who trespasses for the purpose of depositing litter of any kind, without the consent of the homeowner, could be cited for a petty misdemeanor under the amended ordinance. A fine of up to $300 is possible.

The amended ordinance takes effect Friday in Kandiyohi County. It applies in rural areas and unincorporated areas that are subject to county ordinance.

Municipalities, such as Willmar, are not under the county's ordinance.

The change in the ordinance stems from an incident prior to Willmar High School homecoming last year when rural Willmar homeowner Scott Wagar confronted a group of teens on his property and doused them with fox urine. Charges against Wagar were eventually dismissed, and County Attorney Boyd Beccue has said that some of the teenagers in the group were cited for damage to property in relation to the incident.

Beccue told the Kandiyohi County Board on Tuesday that most homeowners, himself included, have laughed off homecoming pranks and cleaned up whatever mess was left behind. However, when people don't want to participate and ask law enforcement to intervene, there now will be an ordinance that applies.

The state's trespassing law does not provide an adequate tool. Under state law, a person is not trespassing unless he has been asked to leave and then does not leave. With homecoming pranks, the kids typically scatter when spotted by a homeowner and a trespassing violation thus has not occurred.

The line between pranks and vandalism may not be a bright one, but when a homeowner calls the authorities, it seems pretty clear he or she is not enjoying the homecoming festivities and they need to come to a halt at that property.

The change in the ordinance probably means parents and their teens should have a discussion about these homecoming festivities -- what's "all in good fun" for some homeowners may feel like an invasion to others. Frankly, this discussion about who may be willing to participate in homecoming festivities should happen every year anyway just out of common courtesy, but the possibility of a $300 citation may help get the conversation started.

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