Editorial: Community must help school fight vandalism

Russell Street School principal David Reardon should be applauded for his proactive approach to dealing with the vandals who have plagued his school for the past three weeks.

CCTV footage of a youth hurling a rock at a school building has been distributed to about 1700 nearby homes, posted on Facebook and featured in a Standard article.

The vandalism has caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to the school, and forced Mr Reardon to enlist the services of a security company to help extract the best surveillance footage.

One can only assume the motive of these individuals was to steal from the school, though fortunately their hamfisted attempts at plundering have so far been repelled.

Vandalism and burglary have been major problems in Palmerston North in recent years.

The staff and pupils at Ross Intermediate know only too well the pain of being repeatedly targeted by criminals, having spent $220,000 on tightening up security after nearly 30 burglaries since 2008.Just across the field at Freyberg High School, there has also been a history of vandalism and break-ins. Things got so bad in 2008 that teachers had to patrol the school by day, and ground staff stayed overnight.

It was saddening to hear Winchester School children, who had their classroom burgled last month, expressed concerns about returning to school because the thieves might return.

If these petty criminals want to waste their own lives then that's their prerogative. But their actions should never be allowed to impact on the lives of innocent schoolchildren.

Of course it's doubtful that they think about such repercussions. Such crimes may seem minor but no doubt the youths who stole the cash box of Lower Hutt bus driver Herman Curry thought the same. They now have to live in the knowledge that Mr Curry died, albeit from natural causes, while pursuing them.

Considering the amount of electronic equipment, including laptops, tablets and televisions, used in today's classrooms, it's not surprising schools are targeted so often.

The police try their best to patrol these areas at night but it is also the responsibility of the community to act as guardians, and take some ownership of schools to stop them being pillaged by selfish criminals.

This is not a call for vigilante justice or for neighbours to be overzealous about after-hours activity in our schools. But it's worth taking a few seconds to phone authorities or note down a number plate if it will go some way to stopping what is becoming a scourge in our city.

Manawatu Standard