School vandalism down in Chilliwack

The Chilliwack school district has seen a huge drop in property crimes, by beefing up their security contract and monitoring local schools.

The Chilliwack school district has seen a huge drop in property crimes, by beefing up their security contract and implementing strategies to monitor local schools.

The number of break-ins dropped 62 per cent from 2013, and of the 11 break-ins in 2014, seven were at the same school by the same suspect. That thief has since been arrested, said Dale Churchill, director of facilities and transportation for the school district.

Break-ins in the past were largely motivated by theft of electronics, he said. But the district now has contracts with Integra Security and Paladin Security, who provide mobilized response to intruder alarms. Since the break-ins have dropped, so has the cost of theft from stolen items.

In 2013, the total cost of thefts was $26,773. In 2014, that dropped to just over $2,000.

The total cost of vandalism and theft in 2013 was almost $64,000. Last year, that number plummeted to under $20,000.

But there is still a problem with students who vandalize their own schools, Churchill said. The number of repair jobs from damage caused willfully by students is a concern to Churchill, and the board of trustees hope to see that change.

“Somehow we have to get the message to the kids that it’s just not cool, no acceptable, (to vandalize schools),” board chair Silvia Dyck said. “Maybe we can talk to the PACs, and they can get the message out. But it’s a bit of a sad thing.”

After hours, in addition to the security contracts, district staff have begun having “dark campuses” to minimize late night vandalism. They’ve also installed new doors and door hardware, roll shutters on windows, chained gates on school grounds, and have marked all technology equipment.

While the cost of the security contacts is $69,000 for the two companies, Churchill said it’s money well spent.

Trustee Paul McManus asked why they’ve only tracked these losses for the past two years. It’s been done in the past, Churchill noted, but recently “fell off the shelf” due to a cut in staff numbers a few years ago.

jpeters@theprogress.com