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School's out; teen mischief is booming

It's a summer ritual, police say, a case of idle time, boredom and peer influence, but those caught will pay the price: jail time.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 23, 2000

TAMPA PALMS -- The noise stirred Michael Frimpton from his sleep.

"It was like three in the morning and I hear this BOOM!, then another BOOM!," said Frimpton, who lives in the Cypress Run Apartments. "Every 10 seconds there was a different noise."

Wide awake, Frimpton ventured off to see what was causing the disturbance. It was coming from the laundry room with a dozen coin-operated washing machines in two rows and separated by a partition. He found the machines. He also found two teenagers keeping them busy.

"They were tipping them over with their feet while sitting on the partition," said Frimpton, who called the police to report the June 8 incident.

The incident was the second in a string of three criminal mischief reports within a two-mile area of New Tampa during a 14-hour period.

Police say criminal mischief cases traditionally rise in the summer, a trend police attribute to the idle time teenagers inherit when school lets out.

When the laundry caper was over, police said the young men did not damage the machines, but caused more than $100 damage to a sink they allegedly ripped down.

Police received a call at 9 p.m. on June 7 from the Eagles Point Apartments that reported unknown suspects breaking $350 in pool furniture. The apartments are next door to Cypress Run.

On June 8, police responded to a model home at Mayfair Park Court. Someone entered the home, spray-painted the interior walls and urinated on a bed.

"Historically, we always see a rise in auto thefts and larcenies," said Joe Durkin, a spokesman for the Tampa Police Department. "For the most part, you have a lot of kids that are out of school, have a lot of time on their hands and they are bored. They are influenced by their peers and get into mischief."

Teenagers might dismiss the mischief as harmless fun. Police warn that when fun becomes criminal, it carries a severe price.

"If you break the law, you are going to go to jail," said Sgt. Jack Ragsdale of the Tampa Police. "We are not going to tolerate any criminal mischief, loitering.

At 24, Frimpton is barely removed from his teenage years. He has a hard time understanding the joy of vandalizing a laundry room.

"When I was a kid, I would have never thought of this," he said. "When I was a kid, getting into mischief, I don't know, I forget. It wasn't going into a Laundromat tipping over laundry machines. What's the fun in that? I'm not sure what they are thinking."

* * *

Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472 or

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