By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank police have charged an Asbury Park man in a recent vandalism spree that targeted street trees downtown.
Edward Williams, 41, was arrested Friday after being identified from surveillance video yanking out a potted tree on Broad Street during Sunday’s Street Fair to benefit the Police Benevolent Association, when hundreds of people were present, according to Chief Darren McConnell.
Williams, recognizable to downtown regulars as a panhandler, was charged with criminal mischief and disorderly person offenses and released on a court summons. Trees are protected under borough ordinance.
McConnell said Williams’ motive was unknown.
Police were alerted after members of the borough Shade Tree Committee responded to a string of attacks in which six Japanese tree lilacs planted three years ago alongside the Station Place apartments on Monmouth Street were found to have been mutilated on April 7.
A day later, those same trees, and others along Monmouth Street, were found to have suffered a second wave of damage, in which one or more attackers “ripped off all the lower branches” of the trees, said committee member Boris Kofman.
Arborist Bill Brooks, a member of the Shade Tree Committee, inspected the trees this week and found at least 11 had been attacked. Brooks said at least one will have to be replaced while two others suffered deep gouges that make their survival questionable.
redbankgreen happened to be on Monmouth Street taking pictures of the damaged trees Thursday afternoon when the man seen above came along and began snapping off tree branches. Despite our pleas that he stop, he continued breaking off limbs as he progressed down the block from West Street to Pearl Street.
McConnell said the man in the photo is Williams.