Millions of dollars have been wiped off the vandalism bills of high-risk schools around South Australian thanks to simple yet effective security measures.
Fencing, letter drops and patrols at targeted state schools and preschools have seen vandalism costs fall from $10.1 million in 2008 to $2.66 million in 2014.
Vandalism expenditure figures obtained by InDaily from the Department of Education and Child Development show damage costs to SA’s high-risk schools have dropped by at least $1 million a year.
Figures: Department of Education and Child Development
The department said fencing installed through the government’s School Security Program had reduced damage to school property by an average of 65 per cent and, in one case, vandalism had been stopped altogether.
“Since 2006, the State Government has invested $10.9 million in security fencing at schools across the state, resulting in a noticeable decrease in crime,” Education and Child Development Minister Susan Close said.
One such school, Blackwood Primary, has recorded a “100 per cent” drop in vandalism since fencing was erected last year, according to the department.
The program was introduced in 2008 as a tool to stem the tide of vandalism at high-risk sites among the state’s 710 state pre, primary and secondary schools.
Department infrastructure executive director Ross Treadwell told InDaily schools were easy targets for vandalism, a crime that had a ripple effect through communities.
“Schools are often targets for wanton property destruction which can range from graffiti and tagging, to smashed windows and small fires.
“Disappointingly, children’s play equipment is often a target for vandalism.
“This can have a detrimental impact on the local community who make use of those facilities outside of school hours.”
Treadwell said partnerships and community ties had been key to reducing vandalism every year since 2008.
“Schools are regarded as community hubs and the broader community has a key role in preventing vandalism and other issues occurring on school premises,” he said.
“Working in partnership with police has provided opportunities for the sharing of information and resources to assist in developing risk reduction strategies for high profile sites.
“The security strategy we’ve implemented is focused on a closer partnership with SA Police’s Security Services Branch, in addition to employing our own preventative funding initiatives.”
The department identified holidays as the most likely time a school would be targeted by vandals.
Treadwell said joint security strategies were developed and tailored to school vacation periods and included:
- Targeting known high-risk sites to receive priority attention through patrols and static guards.
- Strategies to assist prompt attendance by patrol officers to specific incidents.
- SA Police-initiated and targeted programs. Most include letters to residents who live near high-risk schools asking them to be vigilant and report observed crime to police.
Last week Close announced a further $1 million to install security fences at an additional six state school, bringing the total of school participating in the scheme to 85.
“Schools are obviously most vulnerable to vandalism, theft and damage at times when they are not operational,” Close said.
“Damage to a school affects students, parents and the community and it should be as important to the community as it is to me to protect our schools during holidays and at all times.
The fences will be erected at Darlington, Flinders View, Huntfield Heights, Redwood Park and Riverdale primary schools and Underdale High School.
“With the school holidays starting next week, I also urge members of the public to support their communities and immediately report any suspicious behaviour observed in and around preschools and schools to police,” Close said.
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