Published 9:40 am Wednesday, November 24, 2010
BY NICHOLAS LANGHORNE/STAFF WRITER
TRACY AGNEW/SUFFOLK NEWS-HERALD
FRANKLIN—Vandals on Saturday night hit two Franklin car lots, breaking windows out of about 20 vehicles, including some that are used for transporting elderly residents.
Vandals damaged vehicles at Blake Ford Mercury on Armory Drive and Cars & Credit on College Drive. Eight of the damaged vehicles belong to Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, which transports elderly and handicapped residents.
“What these people did was wrong,” said John Skirven, chief executive officer of Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia. “It’s very disappointing, particularly because so many people depend on this.”
The vandals shattered windshields and windows on all eight of the vehicles, Skirven said. In two wheelchair-accessible vans, the criminals discharged fire extinguishers throughout the vans’ interiors.
The vehicles are used for I-Ride shuttle services in Franklin, Southampton and Courtland, and to transport seniors to senior centers in Zuni, Franklin and Suffolk, deliver frozen meals to seniors in rural areas, transport seniors in Franklin to the Western Tidewater Free Clinic in Suffolk and provide seniors transportation to their medical appointments.
“Our big issue is the medical transportation where we carry people to the doctors,” Skirven said. “That really is the biggest hit.”
Repairs to the wheelchair-accessible vans could take up to two to three weeks because of the heavy damage from the fire extinguishers, Skirven said. The organization is seeking volunteers who will provide rides for seniors to get to their appointments.
“If people begin to volunteer, that would really be a great help,” Skirven said. “If people would help right now, we could definitely use it.”
Senior Services was able to restore I-Ride service in Franklin on Monday, using vans redistributed from eastern Hampton Roads. The I-Ride takes people on an eight-mile loop in Franklin, allowing about 5,000 riders a year to go shopping, work or visit the doctor.
I-Ride service for Courtland and Southampton Meadows will be operating as normal next week. For wheelchair accessibility, residents should call the Franklin office to arrange a ride.
Blake Blythe, who owns Blake Ford Mercury, said he’s let Senior Services use his lot for years.
“We let them use our facility to park their vehicles and we control the keys and we work on the vehicles when they need to be repaired,” he said. “We do it as a courtesy.”
Blythe said there have been isolated vandalism incidents on the lot, but nothing quite like this.
“Here lately, the only vandalism we’ve had is people stealing the state inspection stickers where they break the glass and steal the inspection sticker itself,” he said. “This was just old downright vandalism to destroy something.”
None of the dealership’s new vehicles were affected, but about 12 vehicles were damaged, including customers’ vehicles, used vehicles and the Senior Services vehicles. An employee at Cars & Credit said eight vehicles on the back and side of the lot had windows broken out.
As for Senior Services, Skirven said repair work would be completed locally.
“Senior Services is committed to Franklin,” he said.
People wishing to volunteer should call 461-9481 and ask for Latasha, the transit volunteer scheduler, Skirven said. Senior Services volunteers are screened carefully, he added.
Monetary donations to help the organization with insurance deductible payments will also be accepted. To donate, call 461-9481 and ask for Mary Howell.
Skirven said the vandals “ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
“We have had vandalism on individual vehicles in different parts of the region in the past,” he said. “This is the first time ever in Franklin. There’s just no good reason for it.”