Are Video Surveillance Systems Proactive Solutions for School Vandalism?

Recently, there was a heartbreaking vandalism incident at Albuquerque Public Schools, NM.  The Albuquerque Journal reported the estimated cost of damage to be more than $80,000. The school had a video surveillance system in place, and the captured video has been released on their Facebook page.

In the video, there appears to be three girls in a restricted area scanning the space.  The surveillance system continues to pan across, away from the suspects, and ultimately faces the wall. By the time the camera pans back to where the suspects were first seen, the video shows the last suspect climbing over a wall with what appears to be a hammer in one hand. This video system successfully captured evidence of the suspects entering the school, but did not help protect the school from the $80,000 destruction from taking place. These suspects “pretty much trashed and broke as much as they could,” said John Dufay, Albuquerque Public Schools Executive Director of Operations.

Nothing is more frustrating when viewing the video images than seeing the three suspects clearly enter the facility, but not being able to clearly identify the suspects due to the limited resolution and image clarity. There is solid evidence of them entering the facility, but who are they? If the school had supplemental tools that captured higher resolution images for identification purposes to complement the video system, or ideally even stopped the vandals from even entering the school, less time and resources would be required to reverse this extreme case of vandalism. Imagine the amount of time it takes to find these few seconds of the suspects captured on video, having to fast forward through several days of footage after a holiday break?

Vandalism prevention efforts are ultimately more efficient by costing less money and time. In addition to the required resources to reverse and repair these damages, the emotional impact that school vandalism has on the students and faculty cannot be overlooked. It is critical to implement a game plan to protect schools from these types of nuisance crimes proactively as a  long term strategy for maintaining school safety.

School Vandalism

School Vandalism Prevention Helps Minimize Distractions

School vandalism is a constant issue taking place across the country, especially after long holiday breaks.  It’s a crime that is costly for schools and dangerous for students and faculty returning to the campus. Broken windows with shattered glass in classrooms, exposed wires or toxic chemicals spilled in areas that children spend most of their day is hazardous and also time consuming to reverse.

When students and faculty return to these vandalized schools, they are distracted from their studies and the level of attention is disrupted. Studies have linked the effects that a school environment has on academic performance. If lights or heating units aren’t working due to copper wire being stolen from the classroom units, it impacts the attention span of the students, even the teacher.  Graffiti vandalism on campus instills a sense of fear  and anxiety that crime had taken place on campus. Some studies also indicate that if children are exposed to these types of property crimes at an early age, they may be more prone to commit these crimes at a later age themselves.

A recent article on The Gazette titled “Landscapes may shape learning,” mentions a study conducted on “The Hidden Benefits of Green Landscapes” at schools. This was presented by the head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois. He indicates that students have higher attention spans if they have a view of a green spaces from their classroom. Being exposed to green spaces gives the brain a break from the “rigors of focusing on work and other tasks requiring active attention.” Imagine how much additional rigorous activity the brain is put through when it is faced with an environment destroyed by vandalism.  When the environment stays clean, everyone and everything in it will feel safe, and student safety is a top priority for all a schools.

School Bus

Elementary, Middle and High Schools: 85% Report Targeted Attacks of Nuisance Crimes

Eighty-five percent of public schools recorded one or more crime incidents took place at school property during the 2009–10 school year. That’s an estimated 1.9 million crimes (Bureau of Justice Statistics).

Graffiti and vandalism prevention takes priority, certainly after a costly incident. These occurrences can and do happen even in the “safest”, most unlikely school districts.

School officials at Olathe East High in Olathe, Kansas, for example, were surprised by an unprecedented $10K in graffiti vandalism damage  in June, 2014. Graffiti vandals strike at any time with various motives.

One disgruntled student can destroy community confidence and demoralize classmates and school officials. Consider the young student at Alpine School District just last month, whose destructive behavior resulted in major equipment theft and vandalism, leaving the school district with a whopping $20K in cleanup costs and restoration.

Alpine School District spokesman John Patton said, “While [petty vandalism] may be something that we deal with from time to time, something of this nature is really rare. It is extreme, completely out of the ordinary and very disheartening.”

“The environment has been affected, of course,” Patton continued. “We are working hard to get everything repaired…I really think when something like this happens there is.. shock….”

Schools traditionally are far more likely to prepare and prevent harm to schoolchildren from fire hazard than from other crimes such as school vandalism, equipment/metal theft and property damage which also impact the learning environments and safety  for the students and faculty. The real enemy of preparation is denial.