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Public tires of intentional litter across Petersburg


Orin Pierson / Petersburg Pilot

These religious pamphlets have been found littering the roadways of Petersburg for the past several months.

Amidst the more commonplace reports of neighbors playing loud music or callers reporting "suspicious activity" in the Petersburg Pilot's police report, another complaint is making a regular appearance.

The complaint, or some variation of it, has appeared in the police report nearly every week for the past several months:

"A caller reported religious pamphlets littered along the roadway."

The litter or pamphlets, as reported, consist of two tracts, about the size of Monopoly money and around 20 pages long, sealed in small ziploc bags.

The tracts display religious cartoon strips that attempt to proselytize, where pages often reveal graphic images and scenarios.

'HI THERE,' for example, depicts on its cover an image of Death smiling and waving. The track tells the story of Charlie Conners, a construction worker who belittles certain elements of the Christian faith and as a consequence falls to his death, impaled by a shard of metal.

Another tract entitled 'Camel's in the Tent' describes Muslims as "...people who move in and take over, not just tents, but entire countries."

The cartoons, published by Chick Publications out of California, also take aim at Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses and Masonry and any version of the Bible that isn't the King James Version.

People have reported finding them around town, at Sandy Beach Park, and out the road, in the library and in playgrounds among other locations.

For many Petersburg residents, it's nothing new. Glo Wollen has been picking up the tracts for several years and either throws them in the garbage or delivers them to the police

station or the ministerial association.

"It's frustrating as a citizen to see this and I don't think it's doing its intended purpose other than just littering," Wollen said. "If the person who's doing it thinks it's making a difference, as a church-going Lutheran, I don't even open them up. I just toss them away. I think it's kind of a waste of time."

Police Chief Kelly Swihart said he's seen them since he began his job in the spring of 2013. They are piled in his office closet and in the evidence room.

Swihart said he's sent the evidence to a crime lab to check for fingerprints and has also inquired with officials from the post office to see whom the tracts are being sent to.

Littering is against both Petersburg Borough code and state statute. According to borough code, individuals can be fined $100 for the act of littering, or $100 per piece of litter.

"We've been doing an ongoing investigation but haven't been able to put it together yet," Swihart said. "We could charge $100 per pamphlet. I've got hundreds maybe thousands of them."

Swihart also said he's considered charging those associated with the littering for Criminal Dumping due to the sheer volume of material that's been collected.

Petersburg Ministerial Association Pastor Mike Schwarte said their organization has discussed the issue, and says local church leaders don't support the littering of the tracts around the community.

"I don't know if it's a loose cannon that doesn't go to a church," Schwarte said. "I've actually spoken from the pulpit that it's not the proper way to evangelize. I pick them up when I see them, and put them into the cylinder file."

Library Tara Alcock said it's been an issue at the old and new library. Her staff often finds them tucked in between books.

"We would like it to stop," Alcock said. "You can't leave literature here in the library without bringing it to the front desk for us to look at."


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