Vandalism is the intentional destruction or defacement of property. According to statistics from the Bureau of Justice, graffiti is the most common type of property vandalism (35%), but other common acts of vandalism include breaking windows, removing or defacing signage or statues, and dumping trash from receptacles. In addition to the financial loss, acts of vandalism can be demoralizing. There are some simple measures that parishes, schools and service organizations can take to help prevent these occurrences.
Prevention begins with understanding when and where vandals typically strike. According to the Urban Institute of Justice Policy Center, vandalism is mostly attempted during the late evening hours when there is little or no surveillance around property. After-school hours are also common, particularly for juvenile vandals. Like other crimes, a building that has been vandalized once is likely to be vandalized again.
Below are some measures you can take to help prevent incidents of vandalism. Please review these suggestions and contact the Office of Risk Management if you have any questions.
- At end of the day, conduct a walk-through of the building to ensure everyone has left.
- Walk through unused buildings on a regular basis to check for signs of entry and to ensure that premises are secure.
- Lock all doors, windows and (if applicable) gates surrounding the property when leaving the building or if buildings are not in use. If a lock is broken, repair it immediately.
- Install tamper-resistant hardware around doors and windows to discourage intruders.
- Install perimeter lighting around buildings, especially exits and entryways. Lights can be placed on motion sensors to conserve electricity.
- Ensure that exterior lighting is in good working order, replacing burnt-out bulbs immediately.
Control Access/Maintain Key System
- Keep a log of people entering and exiting the facilities.
- If your parish buildings or school facilities are used for various activities, maintain and post a schedule of the groups who are expected to be using the premises.
- Strictly control the issuance of keys, being sure to keep a record of everyone who is given a key.
- Do not tag keys with the address of the building or any other identification that would be evident to an outsider.
- Change or re-key locks once a key has been lost.
Eliminate Hiding Places
- Cut back dense trees and bushes next to the building.
- Remove tree branches below 7’ from trees adjacent to the building and keep shrubbery trimmed below 4’.
- Make sure windows are visible from the street.
Eliminate Arson Hazards
- Remove all unnecessary combustible materials in and around buildings that could be used as fuel by arsonists.
- Move garbage cans and dumpsters away from buildings and keep them closed.
Maintain Alarm System
- To prevent incidental physical damage from burglary, deter break-ins by installing an alarm system and posting notice of alarms.
- Have your alarm system periodically inspected and tested.
Know Your Neighbors
- Encourage parishioners or neighbors to keep a watchful eye during unoccupied hours.
- Maintain Relationship with Local Police
- Coordinate with the local police to ensure appropriate patrols. Do not hesitate to ask police to increase patrols of your property if necessary.
Report Suspicious Activity
- Report any suspicious activity, rumors of mischief or concerns over disgruntled persons to the local police department and the Diocesan Office of Risk Management.
- Educate all staff members and volunteers to report suspicious activity to the pastor or business manager.
- In the case of parish schools, encourage students to discuss their knowledge of vandalism with a teacher or another adult.
- Be on the lookout for:
- Suspicious persons loitering or passing frequently by the facilities
- Matches or other combustible materials discovered in unusual places
- Failed break-ins or arson attempts
- Suspicious telephone calls or letters
- Holes cut in fences
In the Event of Vandalism
If vandalism occurs, instruct staff members and volunteers to leave the crime scene and damage untouched until the police arrive. Once the police have concluded their investigation, the damage should be cleaned and repaired immediately in order to minimize the effect and help prevent future occurrences.
If you need assistance or need to report damage as a result of vandalism, please contact the Office of Risk Management at 617-746-5745.