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Keep eyes open for school vandalism: Police

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From smashed windows to a police foot chase, two north Winnipeg schools are cleaning up after a series of acts of vandalism last week.

On Thurs., July 11, Seven Oaks School Division officials were out boarding up eight smashed windows at West Kildonan Collegiate, an incident that is still to be valued, but a problem that costs the division about $25,000 each year.

"It doesn’t take much to add up," said Tony Kampos, the division’s assistant director of operations.

"Look at the size of the windows. If you break six or seven of them at $700 to $800 a unit, you’re looking at $5,000 to $6,000."

Winnipeg police had no details on the case and the vandals remain at large.

However, five days prior, on July 6, officers arrested two 14-year-old boys after they were caught on the roof of Cecil Rhodes School around midnight, and led the canine unit and Air One police chopper on a foot chase through Weston.

The teens caused about $1,500 in damages and were both charged with mischief under $5,000, police Const. Eric Hofley said. They also face weapons possession charges after officers found a pellet gun they had hidden on the roof before jumping off and leading officers on the pursuit.

"In the summer, schools are unfortunately the target of children with time on their hands," Hofley said.

The quicker residents report suspicious or blatant criminal activity, the sooner police can send out their resources and make a quick arrest, Hofley said.

"The eyes of the community are extremely important in catching these types of crimes," he said.

"Any time they’re seeing something suspicious, if it’s during the summer or after hours, a door is open or there are broken windows, anything like that, we appreciate the phone call and certainly want to get out there and check."

According to the Winnipeg School Division, vandalism is on the decline across the 86 buildings it manages.

In 2012-13, there were 340 work orders regarding vandalism, down from 450 the previous year. The division has spent a little more than $73,000 in repairs, according to figures provided to The Times. In 2009-10, vandalism cost the division $145,000. The most common types of vandalism remain broken windows and graffiti, costing the division $35,000 and $15,000 last year, respectively.

Those figures are comparable to Seven Oaks — the division spends about $20,000 on graffiti removal a year, Kampos said.

Some schools have security cameras, Kampos noted, and have helped police solve break-and-enters at the schools.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba School Boards Association (MSBA) continues to maintain a tip line, 204-231-4556, launched last year for residents to call in reports of suspicious activity and acts of vandalism around schools.

The tip line is open year-round, including winter, though calls peak in summer and early fall, MSBA risk manager Keith Thomas said. The line receives about four tips deemed serious every week — from kids setting off fireworks to gaining access to a roof to dealing drugs, Thomas said.

The MSBA works with the Commissionaires Manitoba security company to respond to tips and patrol all schools across the six city school divisions, Thomas said.

"We’ve had people called in at noon to say there are children on the playground," said Thomas.

"Well, that’s OK. But, when the hours of darkness come, and you get that or see people acting suspiciously, that’s what we want you to call."

Though he wouldn’t name schools, Thomas said "certain schools in the suburbs have more activity than anywhere else."

Thomas encouraged residents to maintain contact with their local school board office and trustees, and to record details such as licence plates when they see suspicious activity.

"We’re always quite happy to act on concerns they do have," he said.

"But, we remind the public their tax dollars maintain the schools and we want to keep those dollars as low as possible."
Twitter: @timesWPG

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