Sara Story, NBCDFW.com
The lawn of the Denton courthouse is open all night, but after a rash of vandalism, the city may be forced to change that to save the valued landmark.
The courthouse lawn on the Denton Square is open all night, but the county may make changes because of vandalism.
County officials say the courthouse is seeing an increasing amount of vandalism.
"We've had graffiti on our trees, painted on the trees. We've had graffiti painted on the granite on the building. We've even had a person start a small fire on one of the porches. There's been windows broken," Denton County Judge Mary Horn said.
She said the county may be forced to post hours of operation on the courthouse, and midnight may be the new curfew.
"After midnight, that's when bad things happen," Horn said.
Downtown businesses also see vandalism. Kirkpatrick Architecture Studio installed a security gate to keep vandals off its property.
"It seems to eliminate a lot of the activities that happen between this building and our neighbor," Jim Kirkpatrick said.
But he said the county should consider options beyond putting in hours of operation.
"I'm not sure that posting hours are going to stop the activities of people that are doing this," Kirkpatrick said.
The courthouse is one of the county's most valued landmarks.
"It's more than a place where people come to hang out," Denton resident Robert Boler said. "It's a town square that is still the heart of the city."
Like Kirkpatrick, he said other options should be considered.
"Limiting hours, in my opinion, would kill the square," Boler said.
"It's free, open public space, which is increasingly rare," Denton resident Jessica Hitch said.
County and city officials, local law enforcement, and the Denton Main Street Association will meet in the next few weeks to discuss the vandalism problem and come up with a plan.