COVID-19 school closures are attracting vandals

Jayden Jhutti/ May 13th, 2020

Bonaccord Elementary has been closed for 2 months, along with schools across Metro Vancouver.

(Jayden Jhutti/BCIT News)

Schools across British Columbia have been empty for over 2 months now, due to COVID-19 regulations related to social distancing. The empty schools have become a target for vandals. Vandals are taking advantage of the empty schools causing widespread damage.

In Surrey the RCMP became aware of this issue in March. Since then the Surrey RCMP have drastically increased police patrols. 

“Since March 27th, the last number I had was over 700 patrols over and above regular patrols. Specifically linked to closed business and other closed facilities.”                         

-Elenore Sturko, Surrey RCMP Media Relations officer

  • March 16, 2020

     

    Schools closed for Spring Break

  • March 27, 2020

    Increased police presence around schools

     

    March 27, 2020

  • March 30, 2020

     

    Schools were set to re-open

Despite the reassurance from the RCMP, residents like Brent Mohr say the issue is still ongoing. Mohr lives a few homes down from an elementary school and has seen an increase in vandalism towards school property. 

The issue of vandalism towards schools extends beyond Surrey. At New Westminster Secondary School vandals targeted a gym window high off the ground.

Vandals broke this window quite high off the ground at Newestminster Secondary School

(Jayden Jhutti/ BCIT News)

Vandals broke this set of windows at Britannia Secondary School despite a vandalism warning sign posted on the building.

(Jayden Jhutti/ BCIT News)

A vandalism warning sign at Britannia Secondary School, this is a permanent fixture on the building.

(Jayden Jhutti/ BCIT News)

In Vancouver, Britannia Secondary has permanent signage regarding vandalism and the arrest and conviction of individuals will result in a $200 reward. Despite the warning vandals were not deterred from breaking windows two storeys high. Leaving several glass windows shattered, which school district crews had to board up.

Along with vandalism, damage caused by break and enters has increased. Surrey Schools District’s Media Relations manager Ritinder Matthew says many factors are contributing to the issue. 

“These issues continue to be on the rise especially because no one is walking by. On a regular school day you have students coming in and out of doors, parents doing drop offs and activity on the fields. Vandalism continues throughout the district, we also did see a spike in break and enters.” -Ritinder Matthew, Surrey Schools Media Relations Manager

Surrey Schools District office, located steps away from an elementary school.

(Jayden Jhutti/ BCIT News)

Bonaccord Elementary has no exterior surveillance cameras. This corner of the building also has no lighting, making it a target for vandals.

(Jayden Jhutti/ BCIT News)

Along with students, rental groups who would usually use the facility in the evening have been also kept away. Meaning there is no activity happening on school grounds during the evening hours. Many schools are often poorly lit making them an easy target. In Surrey most inner city schools are not equipped with exterior surveillance cameras. The lack of cameras makes it hard for the RCMP to identify suspects. Sturko says the Surrey RCMP have responded to suspicious people calls around schools however suspects usually flee the scene prior to police arriving.

Neighbours living and walking around schools should keep a vigilant eye out for vandals, if you observe suspicious activity you should get in contact with your local police department. Anyone caught in the act of damaging school property could potentially face fines and charges related to mischief. 

Neighbours living by schools should report any suspicious activity.

(Jayden Jhutti/ BCIT News)