Your analysis of your local problem should give you a better understanding of the factors contributing to it. Once you have analyzed your local problem and established a baseline for measuring effectiveness, you should consider possible responses to address the problem.
The following response strategies provide a foundation of ideas for addressing your particular problem. These strategies are drawn from a variety of research studies and police reports. Several of these strategies may apply to your community’s problem. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem. Do not limit yourself to considering what police can do: give careful consideration to who else in your community shares responsibility for the problem and can help police better respond to it.
† In a project that applied situational crime prevention to school vandalism in Manchester, England, the task force narrowly defined school vandalism as a “building security problem,” which led to their selecting target-hardening measures only, to the detriment of the initiative’s effectiveness (Barker and Bridgeman 1994). [Full text]
Physical measures to improve building security have great appeal. Their use is already widespread in many places, is easy to understand, and usually involves a one-time outlay of funds. In contrast, measures focused on offenders, new administrative practices or policies, and community involvement appear to be more complex and difficult to implement. It may be difficult to gain group consensus on more-complex responses; however, the initiative’s overall balance depends on it.33
The large number of possible responses can be overwhelming. For this reason, they are categorized into four main sections: those that impact the physical environment, those that impact the offender, those that focus on school administrative practices, and those that enlist the community’s help. The overall initiative should include a balance of responses in each category, and should use the most potent combinations.
† The Southampton (England) Safer Schools project employed a diverse range of responses to combat problems with vandalism and burglary on school property. The responses included improvements to the schools’ design and layout, student- and staff-focused awareness activities, and opportunities for community engagement. Over an 18-month period, there was a 90 percent reduction in reported burglary and damage, and a 75 percent reduction in damage- repair expenditures (Hampshire Constabulary 2004).
Finally, responses should be implemented with great sensitivity to the goal of creating schools that are inviting public institutions. The cumulative effect of multiple responses can make schools appear fortress-like.
† The National Crime Prevention Council's School Safety and Security Toolkit includes detailed information on forming an action team, identifying problems, and developing action plans. The toolkit also includes sample surveys for parents, administrators, and students, as well as a sample school-safety assessment.It is vital that students be involved in the problem-solving effort, including school leaders and more-marginalized students.
†† The Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Police Department implemented a school safety program in which students were taught problem-solving skills and applied them to a range of school safety issues. Teachers served as facilitators, and the school resource officer served as an information source, offering expertise in dealing with crime and disorder. While none of the projects dealt with vandalism specifically, one could apply the process to it (Kenney and Watson 1999).A coordinator is often needed to organize the various stakeholders’ efforts, and to ensure that all of the selected responses are implemented according to design.
††† Though well-planned, an initiative to combat school vandalism in Manchester, England, suffered from the absence of someone to coordinate the overall implementation. Only 15 of 30 targeted responses were implemented, which severely compromised the initiative’s effectiveness (Barker and Bridgeman 1994). [Full text]
Barriers such as interior gates can help keep unauthorized persons out of areas vulnerable to theft or vandalism after hours.
† There are numerous mechanical and electronic fixtures to deter unauthorized entry. See Schneider, Walker, and Sprague (2000) for a description of the full array of options.
Such measures can also delay intruders’ efforts to get away. The potential effectiveness of this response decreases with inconsistent or improper use of the hardware. Some jurisdictions assign a teacher or other staff member to check all locks and gates at the end of each day.37
Intruder alarms, motion sensors, heat sensors, and glass-break sensors are useful for quickly detecting unauthorized entry. Because putting alarms and sensors throughout the school is likely to be cost-prohibitive, focusing on passageways to different parts of the building, and on areas where valuable equipment and records are stored, is most effective. Alarm signals should be sent to police, on-campus security posts, and the school principal.38 However, alarm systems are prone to high rates of false alarms, which not only cost the school if a fine is imposed, but also waste police resources. Faulty or inappropriately selected equipment, poor installation, and user error are the main causes of false alarms.39
Signs clearly stating school procedure and policy can increase awareness of rules while removing ambiguity and ignorance as excuses for improper behavior.
Consolidating valuable equipment in a secure area when not in use is an effective method of preventing theft.
Your police department may have an Operation ID program for inscribing equipment. The program is usually free, the inscription is visible but not unattractive, and the police keep records of the identification numbers.
† The International Dark-Sky Association (1997) offers suggestions for defining “lights out” policies and guidelines for implementing the practice. The San Diego school system saw a 33 percent reduction in property crime over a two-year period and saved more than $1 million in electricity costs after establishing such a policy (Patterson 1996).
†† See Goldstein (1996) and Schneider, Walker, and Sprague (2000) for more detailed information on using target-hardening devices at schools.
Computer labs and classes that use expensive equipment may be located on the second floor to impede access and removal.46
Prompt removal of graffiti denies graffiti artists the satisfaction of seeing their handiwork and, in the case of gang-related graffiti, the likelihood of retaliatory tagging.
††† Zeisel (1976) recommends involving students in the care of school buildings and grounds, and engaging them in ongoing, active projects. Further, motivating marginalized students, in addition to school leaders, can help to deter all students from future vandalism.
Conspicuously placed surveillance cameras can be a useful deterrent by increasing the risk of identification and prosecution.
† If this response is selected, many strategic decisions must be made regarding the system and component specifications, camera placement, wiring, etc. For a thorough discussion of these issues.Though the initial financial outlay may be significant, over the long term, CCTV may be less expensive than funding a full-time security patrol.
†† Poyner (1984) notes that schools are sometimes located in quiet areas some distance from busy commercial areas or traffic, for safety and amenity reasons. This isolation can diminish the advantage of having clear sight lines to key vulnerability points.Clear sight lines in key locations, such as entrances, parking lots, hallways, and playgrounds, maximize the ability of residents and passersby to observe activity in vulnerable areas.
††† The Turner-Fenton Secondary School in Ontario used the principles of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) to reduce the number of trespassers loitering on and vandalizing school property. Reorienting the school’s parking lot increased opportunities for natural surveillance and improved entry-point control. Separating the gymnasium from classroom areas with partitions and safety glass improved opportunities for natural surveillance in vulnerable corridors (Peel Regional Police 1996).Opportunities for natural surveillance are enhanced when staff offices are located throughout the school building, and staff should be vigilant as they move around the school.51
† It is important that mobile units be positioned to afford a clear view of as much of the school as possible, including the most likely approach and escape routes (Poyner 1984).An alternative to having an on-site residence is to stagger custodial shifts for 24-hour coverage. In either arrangement, it is important that the caretaker or custodian is instructed not to intervene in suspicious activity, but rather to alert security staff or the police.52
The most traditional approach to offender accountability involves either individual or group counseling to address the underlying motivations for the behavior. There has been some success with juvenile arsonists using this approach, and counseling that entails behavior modification (token economy, contingency contracts, incentives, and rewards) has had some success.53
Restitution programs include a set of administrative and legal procedures to get money from offenders to pay for repair or replacement of damaged property. Publicizing the results of these efforts is important to maintain their deterrent effect.54 Obviously, these programs are effective only to the extent that offenders are identified and apprehended.
One of the more promising approaches to encouraging offender accountability is to bring together all of the stakeholders in the issue to develop a resolution collectively. The goal is for the offender to make up for the offense, either by paying restitution or by repairing the damaged property.
† Strang (2002) describes how restorative justice programs have been implemented in Australia to deal with school vandalism. Nicholl (2000) explains the seven basic elements of restorative justice.
† A handbook containing practical guidance on property risk management was created and distributed to all head teachers in Scotland as part of a vandalism reduction strategy (Accounts Commission for Scotland 2001). [Full text]
† Typically, the school administers the account. One possible variation is for students to administer the account and to take responsibility for paying all of the bills for property replacement and repair. This helps students to better appreciate the real costs associated with even minor acts of vandalism (Casserly, Bass, and Garrett 1980).Programs involving rewards are most effective with younger students, but older students often respond to the opportunity for shared administrative authority and responsibility.60 Some jurisdictions do not deduct repair costs if the perpetrator is identified and restitution is made, which gives students an incentive to provide information.61
†† Mayer et al. (1987) created a school discipline survey to assess the quality of disciplinary procedures (pp. 204–206).
††† Aryani, Alsabrook, and Garrett (2001) provide specific information for setting up a Scholastic Crime Stoppers program, including administrative tips and responsibilities for police agencies, school administrators, and students. [Full text]The most effective programs actively involve students in collecting and synthesizing information for police, and in determining payout amounts in the event of apprehension.63
† Schools in Hartlepool, England, took the unusual step of targeting young school children (ages four to 11) in their efforts. After the initiative was launched in 33 primary schools, all students received pens and pencils with the “School Watch” logo, and were reminded of the initiative throughout the year through creative classroom activities. Involving students makes them feel important and also teaches good citizenship. As a result, the number of incidents and the associated costs decreased (Cleveland Police Department 1999). [Full text]Effective practices include:
In response to a specific problem or rash of incidents, School Watch has produced short-term reductions in vandalism.65 However, community watch programs are difficult to sustain, have not been shown to reduce crime over the long-term, and may actually increase the fear of crime.66
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