MIDVALE, Utah — Whether it's showing off on Tik Tok in school or destroying a public bathroom in a park, bathroom vandalism, for some strange reason, seems to be on the rise.
Not only does it leave cleaning crews with a complete mess to fix, but taxpayers are ultimately footing the bill.
Take Midvale City Park, for example.
On Thursday afternoon, families enjoyed a beautiful evening with that little bit of fall chill in the air.
A mom walked up to one of the bathrooms with her young daughter, but when she pushed the door, it didn't budge.
What she didn't know, is that the bathrooms closed for the season on Monday. Usually, they don't close for another two weeks.
Either mom or daughter (or both) would have to hold it instead, thanks to a recent rash of vandalism.
"In the last few weeks, it's really been picking up again," said Midvale City Manager Matt Dahl.
Dahl explained that their park bathrooms were vandalized in the spring, right after reopening for the spring and summer season on the heels of the COVID-19 shut down. But, things eventually calmed down and they had no issues the rest of the summer. Then all of a sudden this fall, he indicated, vandalism ramped up again.
And this time, he described how the vandalism was worse than what they've seen in the past.
"It's breaking windows, it's destroying some of the fixtures in the bathrooms, and doing other inappropriate things in there" Dahl described. Profanities were spray-painted on the inside and outside walls.
Perhaps the grossest and most puzzling part, is what park staff found on the walls and floor.
"People are, um, yes... things like feces on the walls," Dahl said.
That does not sound fun to clean up.
The Bureau of Land Management knows that struggle, after a person or people wrecked the Jericho bathroom at Little Sahara last week, causing $8,000 in damage.
"That vandalism included damage to our toilets, and that plumbing associated there, broken windows, broken mirrors, and a lot of explicit graffiti, with explicit images and hate speech," listed BLM Public Affairs Specialist Hannah Lenkowski.
The timing is curious, as the Tik Tok "devious licks" trend wreaks havoc on school bathrooms across the country, including in Utah. The trend involves teens filming themselves taking items (the "lick," or heist) and stuffing those items in their backpacks. The videos have spiraled into stealing large items like toilets, ending in total destruction on some bathrooms.
School districts have issued warning emails and letters to parents, with pleas for parents to tell their children to knock it off. Murray High School began to charge for football games and threatened to cancel activities if it continues. Hunter High School locked some bathrooms and took the doors off others.
Not to mention, vandalism is a crime, and school districts are saying law enforcement is ready to prosecute.
But with the Midvale and Jericho bathrooms being public places to relieve oneself, Lenkowski and Dahl indicated that the link seems like a stretch to make without knowing who vandalized the bathrooms, or why.
"We have heard of the Tik Tok challenge," Lenkowski said. "At this time, we don't think that it's related to that. That being said since it is under investigation, we could learn more."
All they know, is that someone or a group is behind the destruction in these two cases.
And they ruined it for anyone who needs a bathroom break as people enjoy a nice fall evening at Midvale City Park.
Lenkowski said the bathrooms at Jericho are closed until further notice, and they've brought in port-o-potties. The BLM is offering a reward. Anyone with information is asked to call the BLM law enforcement at 1-800-637-9152.
Dahl said they plan to install security cameras outside of the bathrooms in the spring. He said they still plan to open the bathrooms for scheduled events only.