He’s Back: ‘The Brighton Tree Ninja is Escalating’

Last year a man allegedly went on a tree-cutting rampage. Now, he’s returned in full-force, according to officials.

Photo via Reddit.com

Photo via Reddit.com

Described by locals as a “master of evasion,” lurking in the Brighton-area and blistering trees—often fatally—with blows to their trunks using his weapon of choice, the alleged “Tree Ninja” has returned once again, and police want residents to be on the lookout.

According to Universal Hub, police officers from District-14 updated locals on a problem that has plagued the neighborhood for years during a Brighton Allston Improvement Association meeting Thursday night. A man described as “mentally unstable,” who goes around in costume and hacks at the city’s trees with a blade, has resumed the attacks after a brief hiatus, they said.

An ominous notice posted prior to Thursday night’s meeting that alerted residents of the continued attacks on shrubbery and even saplings, said:

Thousands of dollars has been spent by homeowners for tree removal. A few winters ago, a damaged tree came down in a storm, narrowly missing people, power lines, and cars. Two years ago, nearly every newly planted tree along Winship Street was destroyed. We now live in a barren neighborhood with any remaining tree on public or private property at risk of being destroyed.

Police confirmed as much as they detailed recent attacks on trees in Brighton. Officers also said that the city has refused to plant new trees in certain areas because the risk of them being destroyed is too high.

Last year, Greg Mosman, the city’s chief arborist in charge of making sure all of the trees that line the streets are in tip-top condition, told Boston that in his entire career—he’s been around for nearly a decade—he’s had the same issues crop up with the alleged “Tree Ninja” for eight of them. “He is known to police—he has been caught in the act and has been charged for it and locked up for it,” says Mosman. “Every few years [the issue] seems to pop up … tree vandalism is unusual. And for one person to be known and caught and to keep doing it is kind of unique,” he says. “We sort of just took away public trees. Once we figured out [what was going on], and when we met with police, they asked us not to put them back.”

As for handling the vandalism this time around, officers are asking residents to pick up the phone and dial 911, and urging them not to approach the alleged assailant.

  • anonx3

    If everyone knows that it’s Joseph Rizza and he’s been doing this and getting charged for it ever since 2004, why are people so skittish about actually naming him?

    (Check http://business.highbeam.com/3972/article-1G1-122632429/psych-exam-alleged-tree-hacker for his history)

    • gotham77

      Because he’s a psycho?

      • anonx3

        It sounds like as long as you don’t dress like a tree you’re pretty safe.

        • gotham77

          Maybe, but we have no idea what he’ll do if he finds himself cornered…and he’s carrying a weapon.

          • anonx3

            Seriously, you’re saying no media outlet anywhere is naming him because they’re scared of him? Boston Magazine, which has no trouble reporting on corrupt FBI agents, the Irish Mob, and even the Phantom Gourmet, doesn’t want to mess with the Brighton Tree Ninja?

          • gotham77

            Reporters aren’t scared of him, but they also don’t want to encourage private citizens to confront him themselves.

            This is a boring argument.

          • anonx3

            Yes, it must be exhausting to try to find an argument that isn’t immediately contradicted by 85 examples. You should go rest for a while.

            Meanwhile, Joseph Rizza is still out there killing trees. Joseph Rizza Joseph Rizza Joseph Rizza.

  • Sense_and_Reason

    Why would the police tell the Parks Dept. chief arborist not to replace or plant new trees? Should the area have no trees just because the police consistently fails to build a good case against this psycho, though they know who he is, and that he is doing those things.

    Parks Dept. should plant trees near this guy’s house, and the police should install a camera to catch him in the act of destroying public property. He belongs in jail, or in a psychiatric hospital — for a long time.

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    • gotham77

      You don’t get it. He hasn’t beaten the charges…he’s been convicted. But all he gets is a slap on the wrist because “it’s only a tree.” They send him for a week or 30 days to Bridgewater and then he’s back. The police are doing their jobs in this case, but there’s not much they can do about it. They’ve run out of ideas, and depriving the whole neighborhood of trees is the only option they have left.

    • gotham77

      He’s been in jail. He’s been in a psych ward. He’s crazy enough to arrest and send to Bridgewater State Hospital, but not crazy enough to keep him there indefinitely against his will. He’s never threatened a person so all he’ll ever get is a slap on the wrist and nobody wants to send a person that’s obviously crazy to prison. They’ve run out of ideas for how to deal with him.

  • gotham77

    He’ll never stop, that’s obvious. And the only thing authorities can think to do about it is to deprive the whole neighborhood of trees. Nice.

    It’s my understanding that some residents have “successfully” sued him for what he’s done to trees on private property. But I put the word in quotes because they’ve won judgments again him, but he has no money so they’re left holding the bag. Maybe if the courts forced him to actually DO something to make restitution – y’know, like maybe spending 1000 hours growing and planting trees or something – it might make a difference. And if he doesn’t do it, he can be sent away for a longer sentence than the slap on the wrist at Bridgewater they keep giving him.