Fairfield County law enforcement officials say they're cracking down on ongoing neighborhood vandalism being performed by Violet Township-area teenagers in their own backyards.

Fairfield County law enforcement officials say they're cracking down on ongoing neighborhood vandalism being performed by Violet Township-area teenagers in their own backyards.

Sgt. Marian DeVault of the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office was recently assigned to work three days a week out of the Violet Township substation specifically to handle the situation.

So far in June, she said, seven juveniles have been charged with vandalism and trespassing. Three more were caught Thursday night and charges are expected in those cases as well, DeVault said.

While the escalation of vandalism during the summer months is nothing new, DeVault said this year is turning out to be exceptionally busy.

"We're heading into the peak time in July," DeVault said. "They are getting bored and it's getting bad.

"Last summer was unusually quiet for us but this year they were starting to get a little rowdy toward the end of the school year," DeVault said. "We had a feeling it wasn't going to be a good year and it proved to be true."

The trend this year has been dominated by throwing food on homes and vehicles, DeVault said. Ketchup and mustard are the popular weapons of choice, she said.

"We've seen a lot of honey this year too," DeVault said. "I don't know why. I think it's because it's right there in your own refrigerator and you grab it on the way out."

But even something as seemingly harmless as ordinary condiments can cause serious damage, DeVault said.

"When you have to replace siding or anything because the food stains it, you are talking about several hundred dollars," she said.

Other mischief being reported includes lawn ornaments being stolen, patio furniture being left in the road and landscaping being destroyed. Most recently, obscenities have been painted on driveways and lit fireworks have been launched from slingshots.

DeVault said the vandals range in age from 13 to 15 and are typically committing their crimes late at night or early in the morning in the neighborhoods in which they live. The most frequently hit neighborhoods, she said, are Summerfield, Bentwood Farms and Woodfield.

"I think there is a central group doing it," DeVault said. "Members may change in and out, but I think it's one group that gets things started and it's always in the same areas."

Often, DeVault said, the children tell their parents they are spending the night with a friend. Sometimes, they sneak out of their homes while their parents are inside.

"There are some whose parents think they are in bed and we have them," she said.

To put the brakes on the vandalism, DeVault said she is being as creative as the children.

Officers are getting out of cruisers and walking the neighborhoods more. And, she said, a resource officer typically stationed at one area high school has been riding bike patrols in the hardest-hit neighborhoods.

"He's familiar with the kids, so he's a big help," DeVault said.

Additionally, DeVault said she has been bringing a horse patrol unit into the township every other week or so to help build a better relationship with the community.

"That's been a real plus," she said. "People love it."

Members of the county's volunteer citizen patrols are also aware of the problem, DeVault said, and are on the lookout.

"They are just an extra set of eyes and ears out there," she said. "They are a big help to us."

DeVault said the sheriff's office is adopting a zero tolerance policy for teenagers caught out late at night. While there is no curfew to enforce, she said, children can be charged with trespassing.

"We just want people to know we are trying," DeVault said. "I think it's something we are going to deal with every year. I wish there was an answer for that."