Joe Krajnyak

Joe Krajnyak

Vandalism a constant nuisance for public schools

A slide at Promontory Heights Elementary School was burned again, the most recent incident in vandalism at public schools.

A slide at a local elementary school was burned again this week, another act of petty vandalism that is a common nuisance at Chilliwack schools.

“It’s unfortunate it happened. It’s a great place to play…and it’s one less thing for kids to play on,” says Promontory Heights Elementary School principal Joe Krajnyak.

The slide was previously burned twice in 2011. This time the damage was less extensive, with only a six inch hole as result. But this made the slide unusable and unsafe, and the City of Chilliwack has already taken it down.

Two weeks ago, the same school had some windows broken in, and thieves took a fire extinguisher, for which the district will need to pay. That was one incident of a spate of 28 acts of vandalism at Chilliwack schools since January, most of which were break-ins. The norm is five or fewer per month.

“They appear to be related. This isn’t an upward trend that we’re experiencing…This is an anomalous blip in the stats around break-ins,” says district secretary-treasurer Maureen Carradice. “The vast majority of the vandalism that we experience is defacement of the building.”

RCMP caught two people in the act of a break-in on Feb. 10, and laid charges after a chase. The Chilliwack residents, a 32-year-old woman and 34-year-old man, were released on conditions and are due to appear in court on Feb. 26. RCMP speculate that the thieves were after electronic equipment, and expect the charges will end this year’s unusually high rate of vandalism.

The school district spends about $200,000 of its annual facility grant on various loss prevention measures. Lately, some schools have received upgraded security systems, motion sensors, cameras, and reinforced doors and hardware. The district also installed several pricey roll shutters and security screens. The “dark campus” program, in place for five years, is meant to deter graffiti, but may be facilitating theft, noted Carradice at a school board meeting last week.

Krajnyak says that the district is doing all it can, because of the challenge of monitoring and predicting vandalism.

“I don’t think anyone can do any more than can be done. It’s random acts. You can’t prevent random acts of vandalism.”

Promontory Heights is one of the schools farthest from the city centre.

“There are a lot of false alarms,” adds Carradice.

The City’s vandalism costs were $87,785 in the final quarter of 2012, a $22,333 decrease from 2011, according to a report released Tuesday.