Vandalism incidents down at schools

Nanaimo school district smashed its vandalism costs in half last school year.

Nanaimo school district smashed its vandalism costs in half last year.

The district spent about $75,580 repairing damage to school buildings caused by vandals, compared with $148,391 the year before – an almost 50-per cent reduction. It is the first time the district spent under $100,000 since the 2004-05 school year.

“That’s a huge benefit for our district and it means our caretakers can put their energy into upgrading schools as opposed to running around repairing broken windows and cleaning up graffiti,” said Sharon Welch, head of the district’s anti-vandalism committee and school board chairwoman.

She believes the reduction in costs might have a lot to do with the committee’s work over the past year and a half to increase awareness about vandalism.

The committee placed ‘Mosquito’ devices, which emit a high frequency noise that discourages loitering after hours, at two elementary schools with high vandalism incidents. A public meeting to discuss the issue was held at Wellington Secondary School and the committee also collaborated with different groups, including students, the police and the John Howard Society of Nanaimo, said Welch.

Students at three secondary schools were given funding for projects to combat vandalism, such as Dover Bay Secondary School’s online tips website.

John Howard Society representatives joined the committee and worked with the district to fine-tune the district’s restorative justice policies, which encourages students to take responsibility for their actions and take steps to repair the harm they have done.

The committee is also working with the police to bring the Crime Stoppers program into schools, Welch added.

“Having the RCMP and John Howard and Crime Stoppers involved has made an enormous difference,” she said. “We’ve managed to engage students in the process, so the awareness has gone up.”

Pete Sabo, the district’s director of planning and operations, said it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what made the difference in the vandalism numbers, but the only thing that has really changed is the renewed effort by the committee to deal with the problem.

“With the committee we’ve had a more co-ordinated approach with all the stakeholders meeting regularly,” he said.