To the residents of Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, he was simply known as Steve.

He spent the last month stalking the neighborhood streets at night, breaking off the branches of young trees. Sometimes, he broke them off with his bare hands, other times he climbed into the trees and used his weight to tear off their limbs. Recently, he was seen dragging a bag filled with branches, according to the New York Times. 

In the last few days, the authorities said, he attacked 22 trees, leaving most of the debris in a pile around their trunks. The trees — cherries, gingkoes, oaks and maples — looked as though they had been ravaged by a storm. He had attacked dozens more a few weeks earlier.

Residents were furious. They complained to the police, to the city parks department and to Councilwoman Letitia James. They started posting “Steve sightings” on local blogs. A few of them turned nasty and dropped branches into the courtyard outside his mother’s brownstone home.

On Wednesday afternoon, the man, identified by the authorities as Steve Maynard, 35, was arrested in Prospect Park by the Park Enforcement Patrol and taken to the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn. He was charged with criminal mischief, specifically arborcide, the vandalism of public trees. The violation could result in up to $15,000 in fines and up to a year in jail.

Liam Kavanagh, first deputy commissioner for the parks department, said Mr. Maynard appeared to be “one seriously disturbed individual.”

“I don’t know what is the right assistance or intervention,” Mr. Kavanagh said, “but my suspicion is that jail is probably not the answer.”

Mr. Maynard started lashing out against the trees in mid-June, Mr. Kavanagh said, pulling down branches on about 40 of them. On June 18, he was arrested and sent toKings County Hospital Center for psychiatric evaluation, a park official said.

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