School District 43 officials are keeping their fingers crossed that a recent spate of vandalism at local schools isn't the start of a bad trend.
Window breakage and graffiti has been on the decline at local schools over the past five years - along with repair costs - and there have been few problems since school started in September, said Ken Niven, SD43's assistant operations director.
But January and February saw an unusual spike in vandalism. Thirteen windows were broken at Port Coquitlam's Minnekhada middle school in three separate incidents in one week in February - 27 since the beginning of the year - and several other schools sustained either broken windows or graffiti or both for a total of 78 broken windows and 61 incidents of graffiti since Jan. 1.
At Coquitlam's Mundy Road elementary, for example, four windows were broken on Feb. 16 while Bramblewood elementary and Centennial secondary each had two windows broken in the same week. PoCo's Hazel Trembath, meanwhile, was the target of graffiti vandals three times between Feb. 10 and 14.
"They [vandalism problems] have been good," Niven said, explaining that initiatives such as placing shutter blinds on windows may have helped reduce vandalism but he thinks attitudes have changed as well and breaking windows or spray-painting walls is no longer seen as acceptable behaviour.
Still, he said the trend this winter is worrying, and SD43 has increased random night patrols by school security as well as Vandal Watch patrols by Intercon Security at Minnekhada in the hopes of breaking the cycle of vandalism.
Niven he also hopes efforts by the school to connect with the community and neighbours through the Vandal Watch program will also put more eyes on the school and cut down on vandalism (see related story).
According to an SD43 vandalism report, the cost of replacing a broken window is about $125, resulting in a $10,000 cost to the district for window breakage for these last two months.
Yearly vandalism costs (glass and graffiti) for the months July to the following June
YEAR # INCIDENTS # WINDOWS COST
'05/'06 785 1,352 $82k
'06/'07 908 1,206 $111k
'07/'08 812 1,014 $138k
'08/'09 656 738 $106k
'09/'10 537 629 $98k