The smug arrogance that dispatches people onto public property to destroy trees comes with an expensive price.

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AT one level, the destruction of trees on 1.5 acres of public property in West Seattle is a profoundly brazen example of vandalism.

A malicious act by smug, arrogant people who assumed they could commit the crime and get away with it. And, of course, benefit from the results. Better views enhance property values.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes is gathering evidence involving at least two homeowners so far, and he will present the findings to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The cost to replant and reclaim the site in the West Duwamish Greenbelt is expected to run several hundred thousand dollars and pushes the crime deep into felony territory.

Not only have the alleged vandals destroyed more than 150 trees that belonged to the public, they have potentially destabilized a steep slope and put nearby property at risk.

The Seattle area has a history of citizens engaging in this kind of reckless, selfish behavior. Remember the infamous federal judge who had his gardener chop down 120 trees in Colman Park to open up the view behind his home to Lake Washington?

After all kinds of legal word games, blame shifting and attempts to lay off the costs on his insurance company, he paid $600,000.

A few years later, several large trees along the Burke-Gilman Trail in the View Ridge neighborhood were drilled into and injected with herbicide. The trees died.

Good to know the criminal justice system is working to hold people accountable for the latest, selfish, craven act. Expect years of finger pointing.

But do not expect a sane answer to a basic, incredulous question: “And you didn’t think anyone would notice?”