The information provided above is only a generalized description of school vandalism and break-ins. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.
The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of school vandalism and break-ins, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.
Traditionally, schools have focused almost exclusively on maintenance records for information on vandalism levels. These records should contain specific information on the location, type, entry method, time, suspected perpetrators, and other details essential to developing informed responses. Further, schools should report all incidents of vandalism and burglary, no matter how trivial, so that an assessment of the impact on individual schools and entire districts can be done.
New technology for mapping and analyzing incidents that occur in and around schools can reveal patterns and suggest possible reasons for them. The analysis should be as specific as possible to allow for precision in developing responses.
† The School Crime Operations Package (School COP) is a free software program for entering, mapping, and analyzing incidents that occur in and around schools. Developed by Abt Associates under a contract with the National Institute of Justice, the software is available at http://www.schoolcopsoftware.com/index.htm.
You can get some of the answers needed to understand your local problem from school risk assessments the police and fire departments have done. These assessments are primarily concerned with a school’s physical environment, building(s), grounds, policies, procedures, personnel, and technology, but also may address the social and academic environments relevant to crime prevention.
† Atkinson (2002) created a guide for fostering school partnerships with law enforcement, and for using the SARA model to analyze various crime problems affecting schools. [Full text] Sample school assessments are provided by Schneider, Walker, and Sprague (2000), and in the National Crime Prevention Council’s (2003) School Safety and Security Toolkit, available at http://www.ncpc.org/cms/cms-upload/ncpc/files/BSSToolkit_Complete.pdf.
Student and staff surveys are also useful for gaining insight into how the problem takes shape in your jurisdiction.
Beyond the physical security that armed, uniformed school resource officers (SROs) can provide, they are also excellent sources of information about the size of, scope of, and current responses to the problem. Because SROs from different schools are well connected to each other, they bring a systemwide or regional perspective to the information-gathering process.
Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. All measures should be taken in both the target area and the surrounding area. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)
Regular monitoring is vital to developing a clear understanding of how each response affects school vandalism and break-ins. You should modify or discontinue ineffective responses. Event- and response-level monitoring requires a quality information system that includes specific details about the acts, the perpetrators, and the contextual factors, as well as data on how and when the responses were implemented.
The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to school vandalism and break-ins:
Some additional measures that, while not directly indicating effectiveness, may suggest that the situation is improving include
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