School system is paying higher price for crime Vandalism, thefts cost over $130,000

September 30, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Vandalism, graffiti and theft cost Howard County schools more than $130,000 last year, according to a report presented to the county school board.

That cost is a 44 percent increase from the previous school year, when the school system spent close to $90,000 on labor and equipment to repair property, clean walls and replace items, according to the report.

Thefts last year accounted for most of the expense, costing the school system close to $79,000 -- about $60,000 more than the previous school year. The school system received a little more than $10,000 in reimbursement from insurance.

School officials logged 54 theft incidents last school year, 20 more than the previous year. Thieves stole computers, laser disc players, VCRs and even a riding lawn mower.

Among elementary schools, Forest Ridge reported the most thefts -- three -- including computers and a VCR, with a total value of more than $4,000.

Principal Marianne Pfeiffer said the thefts of the computers occurred when the school was in the final stages of construction.

"The school was not as secure as it would have been had the building been finished," she said.

Fourteen elementary schools reported no thefts during last school year, while others reported losses ranging from $1.30 to nearly $3,400.

Burleigh Manor Middle School reported the biggest loss among all county schools -- $18,000 worth of electronic equipment, including disc players, videocassette cameras and tools. The equipment was stolen in August before the school opened.

Three other middle schools reported theft incidents, including $2 worth of property at Wilde Lake, $576 at Clarksville and $2,887 at Patuxent Valley. Nine middle schools reported no thefts.

All high schools but Howard reported theft incidents, from $995 worth of property loss at Oakland Mills to $8,200 in various losses at Centennial. Thefts included $2,100 in cash from Glenelg's safe deposit box and the $5,000 riding lawn mower at Mt. Hebron.

The number of vandalism acts decreased by almost 30 percent to 346 incidents last school year. Vandalism cost almost $48,000 in repairs and replacement last school year, compared with almost $65,000 the previous school year. Almost $3,000 of last year's cost was reimbursed in insurance money.

But the number of graffiti acts jumped 70 percent to 56 incidents last school year, at a cost of $4,600 in labor and chemicals to remove spray paint from walls and sidewalks.

"We know that every dollar we spend for vandalism is a dollar that is not spent for the education of kids," said Associate Superintendent Sydney Cousin.

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