GREAT FALLS – The Great Falls Police Department informed MTN News Sunday afternoon that officers are investigating a tagging incident near Gibson Park involving a Great Falls landmark: the Lady Liberty statue.
Officers responded early Sunday morning to reports of vandalization of the replica, located on the west side of the city at the corner of Park Drive North and 2nd Avenue North, that mirrors the famous gift from France to the United States at the end of the Revolutionary War.
The vandalists’ intent was not immediately apparent to onlookers Sunday, although green spray paint depicts insignia and several numbers directly below a plaque, which describes the monument’s significance. Sitting over 8 feet tall and weighing approximately 290 pounds, the marker serves as a familiar sight to longtime Great Falls residents.
As one of over 200 replicas doled out nationwide, spanning 39 states, the sheet copper statue was erected in Great Falls in 1951 by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), in celebration of the organization’s 40th anniversary theme: “Strengthen the Arm of Liberty.”
The plaque below which the vandalism now resides states, “With the faith and courage of their forefathers who made possible the freedom of these United States, the Boy Scouts of America dedicate this copy of the Statue of Liberty as a pledge of everlasting fidelity and loyalty. 40th anniversary Crusade to Strengthen Liberty, 1951.”
The Great Falls Police Department urges residents to report any and all tagging incidents. According to the city’s website, upon observing vandalism, “contact the Police Department at (406) 727-7688, Option 5 in order to report the incident.”
In the case of vandalism on a private property, “It is the property owner’s responsibility to remove the graffiti,” the city’s website also notes.
One way in which Great Falls residents can play a role to prevent vandalism within the community is to participate in the city’s “Crime Stoppers” program. Founded in 1985, Crime Stoppers incentivizes citizens to report crimes by presenting financial rewards to individuals who provide tips that result in an arrest being made.
Since its inception, the program has recouped “over $165,852 in vandalism cases,” according to the City of Great Falls.
The city’s website explains, “Once the information is received, it is disseminated to the correct law enforcement agency for investigation. If the information leads to the arrest and prosecution of the suspect. The caller may be eligible for a cash reward up to $1,000.”
The Crime Stoppers 24-hour hotline number is 727-TIPS (727-8477).
The Great Falls Police Department did not provide MTN with any information as to how or when the statue will be cleaned.
Reporting by Zachary Schermele for MTN News