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Residents pitch-in to combat vandalism

Tim Kelley lives near a school and he knows the sound of trouble brewing. If he hears the sound of clinking glass, he leaps to a window to see what's going on and he hopes Tri-City residents will do the same this summer.

Tim Kelley lives near a school and he knows the sound of trouble brewing. If he hears the sound of clinking glass, he leaps to a window to see what's going on and he hopes Tri-City residents will do the same this summer.

Vandalism is as common in summer as sunshine and the beach, although Kelley wishes it were not, but if people call Vandal Watch before damage occurs parks and schools won't suffer unduly this year.

"When schools are empty they are more vulnerable and when people are out problems start to occur," says Kelley, the Vandal Watch coordinator for Port Coquitlam and School District 43.

If people see or hear something happening at their local school, Kelley wants them to immediately phone the Vandal Watch tip line. It's anonymous as well as confidential and the response is quick, said Kelley. A security patrol should be at the trouble spot within 20 minutes to encourage people to move along before any damage is done.

"What we're hoping people will do when it [trouble] does sort of reveal itself is rather than turn up the TV they make a phone call," Kelley said, noting that the tip line is 604-927-7600.

In anticipation of a busy summer, Kelley has been contacting 60 Vandal Watch groups in the area to remind them to be alert to activity at their schools and reminding them about the tip-line.

He doesn't expect vandalism to be worse than any other summer. On the contrary, vandalism has been on the decline in School District 43 for the past few years.

However, there were problems in January and February at some schools and Kelley just wants people to be on the look-out.

Vandal Watch, which is a joint initiative of the parks and recreation department of the city of Port Coquitlam and SD43, has been working with RCMP and city and school officials for the past few months to identify challenges and come up with some solutions.

Ken Niven, an SD43 employee who is also the current president of the Vandal Watch Society, said several initiatives will be undertaken this summer to cut down on vandalism. In addition to Vandal Watch, there will be random patrols by SD43 security runners to act as a visible deterrent. "The runners will be asking groups of youth to be moving along with the goal of breaking cycles of activity at certain schools," Niven said.

Although vandalism this year is roughly on par with last year, some schools were harder hit than others and patrols will be targeting those areas, he said. For example, Minnekhada middle, which had 13 windows broken in one week in February, will get a lighting upgrade on the south side of the school where most of the problems happen.

The district also plans to improve sightlines at some schools by clearing underbrush and removing garbage bins.

To find out more about Vandal Watch or to form a Vandal Watch chapter, email vandalwatch@hotmail.com or visit www.vandalwatch.citysoup.ca/Default.htm

To report a problem at a school or a Port Coquitlam park call 604-927-7600

Keep your eyes and ears open for suspicious activities in the park or at the community centre. Signs of trouble include late night trespassers and the gathering of unorganized groups of people.

Everything you see and hear helps. Note the physical characteristics and clothing of individuals. If you see automobiles, jot down license plate numbers.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

THE NUMBERS

Yearly vandalism costs (glass and graffiti) for the months July to the following June

Year # incidents # windows Cost

2005-'06 785 1,352 $82,179

2006-'07 908 1,206 $110,990

2007-'08 812 1,014 $137,840

2008-'09 656 738 $105,606

2009-'10 537 629 $97,924

REPORT

To report problem at a school or a Port Coquitlam park call 604-927-7600

Keep your eyes and ears open for suspicious activities in the park or at the community centre. Signs of trouble include late night trespassers and the gathering of unorganized groups of people.

Everything you see and hear helps. Note the physical characteristics and clothing of individuals. If you see automobiles, jot down license plate numbers.