April 10, 2020

Friday, April 10, 2020 - ,,, No comments

While the world is shuttered for COVID-19 vandals and thieves can exploit opportunities


The city of Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi is angry, and not without good cause. 

Sometime, last sunday evening despite the stay at home orders mandated in Rome to minimise health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, someone strolling through the city's Villa Doria Pamphilj park, used the occasion to destroy the statue of Neptune, the mythical king of the sea, which once sat on the pedestal in the historic garden's theatre.

One of lessor known areas of Villa Doria Pamphili, the Garden of the Theatre was built between 1652 and 1664 and takes its name from the large semicircular exedra with its 11 reliefs which document a series of myths.  The space was intended to be used to host outdoor theatrical and musical performances and is flanked by the Nymphaeum of the Tritons.

The city park, and all parks in Rome have been  closed  to the public since March 13th as part of the city's policy during the quarantine imposed by the coronavirus emergency. Yet in the span of a week, vandals or the same vandal have not only  destroyed the statue of Neptune, but some antique decorative vases and six marble toponymic plaques between the 2nd and 3rd of April. 

Years of neglect had already wreaked havoc on the 1990's replica
Protecting the 180 hectare park has long been a challenge, an easy-to-climb-over fence, and many "blind" spaces make patrolling the park a complex endeavour. Thankfully, the statue destroyed is a 1990 replica, the original having been moved to a more secure garden attached to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, an administrative palazzo which supports the Prime Minister of Italy.

Rome's may called the destruction a shameful and intolerable gesture, even more so in a moment like the one Rome is experiencing. 

Teatro di Giardino, Villa Doria Pamphilj
Image Credit: Associazione per Villa Pamphilj
The Association for Villa Pamphilj, a grassroots nonprofit aimed at safeguarding and protecting the park, has been active in complaining about areas of the Villa's grounds in need of routine maintenance, conservation and upkeep.  They, and law enforcement, note this is not the first examples of theft and damages to the city park even before the current COVID crisis. 

The broken windows theory in criminology states that visible signs of crime,  disorder and misbehaviour in an environment encourage further disorder and anti-social behaviour, which in turn can encourage more serious crime. Untended, and in public space areas less than ideally maintained for years, the Villa Pamphilj park, and others like it, become fair game for inconsiderate people venting their frustrations with random acts of vandalism or for thieves.

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