N.H. Neighbors Say Church-Goers 'Raise Hell'

Sept. 17, 2012
A Ringe neighborhood is dealing with an increase in litter, damaged mailboxes and speeding cars. And neighbors say members of a local church youth group are the cause.

Sept. 17--RINDGE -- A town neighborhood is dealing with an increase in litter, damaged mailboxes and speeding cars.

And neighbors say members of a local church youth group are the cause.

The Rindge Police Department and Christian Outreach Church -- the congregation the youth group is affiliated with -- held a meeting last week with North Street residents to discuss concerns.

Neighbors have complained that teenagers are hanging out on the street late at night, speeding and being loud, said Acting Police Chief Frank C. Morrill. There have also been cases of damaged mailboxes and trash thrown on the street, he said. There was also one incident where a teen practiced target shooting at the baseball field next to the church.

"When youth get together," Morrill said, "they can be noisy and obnoxious."

Of the 150 in the youth group, it is only a few who are racing their cars and being loud, Rev. Robert Hakala said.

The church holds activities, such as flag football, volleyball and bible study classes, for the youth group members, who range in age from young teenagers to early 20s. Members are from Rindge and the surrounding area.

"You always get a couple of kids who are troublemakers," Hakala said.

One Bible study group starts at 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and Morrill said he thinks teenagers are hanging out after the class ends. The church sits in a residential neighborhood, with houses on both sides.

Because of neighbors' complaints, police and the church have tried to enact some rules.

The police now enforce a curfew -- 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and midnight Friday and Saturday. Police also aim to discouraging loitering by showing up at the church more and talking to the teenagers hanging out in the parking lot.

The church will install cameras to watch behavior in the parking lot, Morrill said. A sign was also put up at the church saying, "Please respect the neighbors" by obeying the curfew hours and not loitering.

And because of the target shooting, a locked gate has been installed at the baseball field to prevent people from entering.

To some neighbors, it's more than just mischievous kids.

"It's been horrible," Donna M. McElroy said. "It's just an ongoing battle."

McElroy, who has lived on North Street since the 1980s, said her mailbox has been damaged too many times to count.

The problems started years ago, she said, and have escalated through the years.

Teenagers hang out in the church parking lot all year round, she said, usually between 5:30 p.m. and 3 a.m.

It's nearly impossible to just relax by her pool on a summer night, she said, because even in her backyard, she can hear tires squealing and engines revving.

McElroy and her husband are considering moving because of the noise, she said.

Morrill and Hakala are optimistic that if everyone works together, the issues can be solved.

Police and church officials will hold another meeting in January with neighbors to see if there's been less trouble.

But McElroy said she thinks that's aiming high. The area has changed since she first moved here, she said, and it's only gotten worse.

"It was a nice quiet town when we first moved here," she said.

Jacqueline Palochko can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or jpalochko@ keenesentinel.com.

Copyright 2012 - The Keene Sentinel, N.H.

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