Metro

Brighton ‘tree ninja’ charged with destruction of property

A man known to police as the Brighton “tree ninja” was arraigned Wednesday in District Court for allegedly damaging a tree using a hammer.

Joseph Rizza, 65, of Brighton, was charged with five counts of willful and malicious destruction of property, and one count of possession of a dangerous weapon.

Police said they are investigating Rizza in connection with several years of reports of similar incidents. “This ‘Brighton Tree Ninja’ would either chop down, or damage beyond saving, young trees that were planted in Brighton,” Boston police said in a statement.

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Earlier this month, detectives set up surveillance cameras in the parking lot near the Brighton Elks Lodge. On Wednesday, police said, detectives took Rizza into custody after they saw him enter the lot and begin to cut down a tree.

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Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, praised investigators for nipping this case in the bud.

“It started with input from Brighton residents, continued with the strategic deployment of public safety cameras, and resulted in charges that could otherwise have been very challenging to prove,” he said.

In March, Rizza was ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device and given a curfew after being charged with vandalizing a tree on Winship Street.

On Wednesday, the judge ordered Rizza to be held in lieu of $7,000 bail on the new charges. Wark said Rizza will be held for 60 days even if he posts bail, because he violated the conditions of his release in the March case. His next court date is May 19.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com.