3 teens torched playground for kids with special needs, Woodbridge cops say
WOODBRIDGE — Three teens were charged with torching a special needs playground at a Central Jersey elementary school.
Two 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old were arrested after last Wednesday's fire, which caused $100,000 worth of damage to the Boundless playground at the Matthew Jago School 28 in the Sewaren section of Woodbridge, according to a statement from Mayor John McCormac and Police Director Robert Hubner.
Neighbors interviewed by police said they saw the three in the playground just before the flames broke out, police said.
":It was good old fashioned police work. They went door to door and talked to everybody, got a few tips, put all the pieces together and made three arrests within 48 hours of when the incident occurred," McCormac told New Jersey 101.5.
He credited police for "going the extra mile" to find the teens, given the playground is used by handicapped children.
The identities of the teens or the charges were not disclosed by police, who said the investigation is ongoing.
"These arrests send a strong message to anyone who thinks that setting a fire and destroying thousands of dollars of playground equipment is simply vandalism,” the mayor said.
McCormac said he has received an outpouring of offers to help rebuild the park, which is valued at $250,000. It is fully accessible for handicapped and challenged kids of all ages, skills and experience, with many and varied play events, according to McCormac.
"(The fire) brought out the best in people all who want to help us rebuild," he said.
The mayor said the township's board of education will go through its insurance to get an estimate for rebuilding the playground, which includes 60 pieces of equipment including wheelchair access ramps, swings, platforms and seats, sliding boards, tube slides, a maze and benches and tables.
"We'd love to have it rebuilt for when school reopens September 5. That's our goal but when you work with insurance you don't control everything," McCormac said.
The area of the fire is a "total loss," according to McCormac, but two small sections are still usable and were not usable.
The park is also home to Camp PACE (Parents’ Organization Program for the Advancement of Children’s Education), which serves youngsters on the autism spectrum or who face other challenges.