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Cops descend on park to catch vandals

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Police are planting uniformed and undercover officers in Golden Gate Park to stake out potential targets 24 hours a day after vandals destroyed trees and bushes recently.

More than 40 trees, mostly near the Music Concourse, were cut down or damaged in one attack. Last week, about 36 rose bushes were cut in the famed Rose Garden. Nearby shrubs also were vandalized. Police say the perpetrator used yard tools such as a saw and all the bushes were meticulously cut.

“It would just be supposition at this point for me to weigh in on why I think someone’s doing this,” Richmond Police Station Capt. Richard Corriea said, “so we are treating them as separate crimes.”

The crimes have lead to officers patrolling more than 40 hot spots in the park around the clock.

“The park is 1,000 acres, however the crime was committed in two areas that are high profile and very public,” Corriea said.

But the damage to the bushes is already done.

Recreation and Park Department officials are projecting each bed of roses — all were in full bloom — cost the agency about $5,000 a piece.

“This is a trend of vandalism that can’t be explained, and we don’t know who’s doing it and we’re remaining vigilant,” Rec and Park spokesman Elton Pon said. “We wouldn’t prune them to the degree they were pruned ... but there’s a chance some will grow back.”

Meanwhile, both the nonprofit San Francisco Parks Trust and Friends of the Urban Forest have donated $1,000 each for anyone who has information that leads to an arrest.

Corriea said if police pin down the vandal and he or she is in fact responsible for more than one, he will push for felony malicious and mischievous vandalism charges.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com