Graffiti at Chilliwack secondary school is a concern, and the facilities department works quickly to remove it. (Submitted photo)

Vandalism costs take away from classrooms, says Chilliwack school district

Facilities department beefing up security to keep costs down

Every dollar spent fixing a broken fixture at a school, is a dollar taken out of a classroom.

That’s the frustration the Chilliwack School District is dealing with in several school sites, with Chilliwack secondary school topping the list. Al Van Tassel, the director of facilities and transportation for the district, presented an annual review to the school board on Apr. 11, outlining security and vandalism costs, and highlighting measures being taken to reduce costs.

Over the calendar year of 2016, vandalism repair cost the district $35,779. It breaks down to $23,395 in labour and $12,384 in materials. Chilliwack secondary cost the most, at $5,535, followed by Little Mountain elementary, at $3,210 and Vedder middle at $2,905.

While graffiti is a problem at many locations — presumably from non-students — vandalism doesn’t always take place outside the school.

“Bathrooms are hit hard,” he noted, most likely because of the privacy in those rooms.

Some of the schools with the lowest vandalism repair costs in 2016 were Fraser Valley Distance Ed, Yarrow, Cultus Lake, Robertson, Unsworth, and FG Leary elementary schools, and the Ed Centre, each costing less than $250 for the year.

The data was broken down by Van Tassel to list off three different types of vandalism. There’s non-entry vandalism, such as graffiti, window breakage, damage of playgrounds and other outdoor facilities, stairs, HVAC equipment and cameras, and chain link fence repair.

Then there are also break-ins, and finally vandalism inside during school hours, such as the bathrooms. That includes damage to plumbing equipment, electrical components, cabinets, door hardware, lockers, and even safety equipment like fire extinguishers.

The other necessary cost is for security, and this last year the school district enlisted the help of Griffin Security. In 2016, the district paid Integra Security $55,120 for security runner services, Paladin Security $9,322 for alarm monitoring, and Griffin Security $19,316 for security services.

By and large, security alarms are set off by staff in the building after hours, Van Tassel said.

There are numerous methods the district has tried in order to combat vandals, and lower false alarms. They are working closely with Crime Stoppers, the City of Chilliwack and Griffin. They’ve started adopting “dark campuses” at night, as well.

“It’s not as fun to paint (a building) in the dark,” Van Tassel said, and when they try to use a flashlight they’re more easily caught on the security cameras.

They’ve improved visibility and lines of sight for their cameras and upgraded the equipment, installed even more roll shutters and security screens in high risk areas like Cheam and Leary.

They’ve also “hardened targets” like bike racks by installing bike storage and fencing.

Finally, they’re tracking vandalism costs closely, to continue highlighting the ongoing concern.

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Al Van Tassel, director of facilities and transportation, explains some of the ways his department is working to combat vandalism at Chilliwack school sites. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

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