Teens say cutting down trees 'better than drinking'

Teens say cutting down trees 'better than drinking' »Play Video
Photo courtesy of the Fairview Police Department.

FAIRVIEW, Ore. - "It's better than drinking."

That's what two teenagers told police when they were arrested for chopping down trees in a city park.

There were about a dozen trees that were chopped down at Fairview Woods Park and police say they’ve been working on this case for about a month.

They got a tip Thursday that the teenagers were in the park with an ax. It was a big break in the case. The problem, however, was that all units were busy working a standoff in Troutdale. So the police chief himself jumped into action.

"So what am I going to do? Nobody’s available," said Chief Ken Johnson.

So he left his desk and headed to the park with the school resource officer.

"It's nice for the old guys to show the young pups how to do it," Johnson said, laughing.

He said they followed the sound of chopping to two teenagers with a hatchet, catching them in the act.

But why were they doing it?

"That was the exact question that we asked them, and their response was, basically, 'It's better than drinking and there's nothing better to do.' And they felt that wasn't a big deal hacking down trees in our city park."

But it is kind of a big deal.

Police say the teenagers left some trees half chopped, posing a risk that the trees would come down without warning.

City crews had to bring the damaged trees down for safety.

"We're lucky that we haven't had one fall and hurt somebody or cause other damages," said Brad Robertson with the Fairview Police Department. "There are a lot of houses and apartment complexes near there and some of these trees (are) easily large enough and tall enough they could have fallen and damaged another structure."

Police also say the teenagers are costing the city a lot of money – as much as $10,000 per tree.

And when it comes to criminal charges, chopping down city trees is not better than drinking. Johnson says drinking would be a violation but the teenagers now could face felonies – three charges each of felony criminal mischief.