BENTON, Ark. (KTHV) -- Police in Benton are asking the public for help finding the people who ripped up toys and playground equipment at a preschool for children with developmental disabilities.
Over Labor Day weekend, someone vandalized three playgrounds at the Civitan Center playground and perhaps inadvertently caused thousands of dollars of food to spoil.
The crime has everyone involved baffled at why someone would target baby toys looking to make a mess.
“Our cook got here at six in the morning and was greeted by an awful smell in the building,” said Mariessa Bearden, the associate director for Civitan Services.
The vandals allegedly tripped breakers that controlled the center’s walk-in freezers, causing all of the perishables for children’s lunches to spoil.
“It was over 70 degrees when we got here on that Tuesday morning. The butter inside the walk-in had started melting.”
The vandals caused $2,700 in damage to the food alone plus hundreds more for service technicians to replace a broken Freon line. They then rampaged across three play areas, doing about $700 in damage to toys and safety equipment. They also left two random clues, a pair of Nike sneakers and a pink water bottle.
“I do think it’s possibly unsupervised kids who are just being ornery and bad,” Bearden said. “And what mother would not notice her child not having shoes on. You know? Kind of 'where are those shoes?'"
Police join Bearden in thinking this is the work of kids. Investigators can’t determine the exact size of the shoes, but they look like they would be something a middle school-aged child might fit into.
Bearden hopes the culprits will be able to understand the harm they have done.
"I want them to know that it doesn't hurt me, but it hurts all the kids that we serve here,” she said. ”It's their toys that were broken. It hurts in the amount of food that we lost."
Benton police posted the sneakers and water bottle on their Facebook page with numbers to contact them with any information in this case.