How To Protect Your Home and Property from Vandals
Vandalism is a growing national problem. Last year this senseless crime cost United States Citizens over $1 billion dollars. Vandalism is a problem that gets to everyone in some form or another. It can affect your family, friends, property, community, and your pocketbook. The more you know about vandalism, the more you can make it a crime that is more trouble than it's worth.
WHAT IS VANDALISM?
Vandalism is the deliberate defacement, mutilation, or destruction of private or public property. It is not a "harmless prank." Vandals are criminals because they destroy property, waste time and money, and cause suffering and death. While millions of incidents of vandalism are reported every year, at least twice as many incidents are not reported.
WHO IS THE VANDAL?
Over one half of all the crimes associated with vandalism occurs in high schools. There is no typical vandal. Vandals can be good or bad students, girls or boys, whites or blacks, rich or poor.
The largest age group arrested for vandalism is between 13 and 14. However, children as youngsix and seven vandalize schools and park areas. Teenagers with growing-up problems act destructively by misusing vehicles, spray-painting graffiti on public places, etc. Older youths often commit more serious acts such as damaging vehicles or machinery, burglary, arson or theft.
WHY DO PEOPLE VANDALIZE?
Although most vandals do not have a clear motive for their acts, studies show that basic social problems and attitudes are at the root of the vandalism. Among the many explanations for the crime are anger against society, boredom, drug and alcohol abuse, disciplinary problems, personal problems and racial/political conflicts.
HOW CAN VANDALISM AFFECT MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS?
The innocent bystander who is so often a victim of the vandal's activities could easily be you or someone close to you.
Many young people are readily influenced by their peers. By joining the groups of teenagers who are vandalizing out of boredom or are trying to impress other teenagers, your child could end up with a police record instead of a diploma.
In 1978, vandalism cost schools in the United States over $460 million dollars or $13 per student, today's figures are much, much higher. The cost of your taxes could rise unnecessarily or the quality of your child's education could be lowered as a result of temporary school closings and equipment shortages.
HOW DOES VANDALISM AFFECT MY COMMUNITY?
Police, fire and emergency services are affected by the direct damage, increased workloads and false alarms.
Facilities, such as parks and public rest rooms which everyone in the community uses, become unavailable or dangerous.
The court system is affected by the strain of time-consuming hearings and trials which jeopardize a defendant's right to a fair and speedy trial.
HOW DOES VANDALISM AFFECT MY POCKETBOOK?
Taxes go up when public property has to be repaired or replaced.
Your insurance may cover damage to your personal property, but rates will increase if vandalism becomes rampant in your neighborhood.
According to a Small Business Administration Report, over $814 million dollars is lost as a result of vandalism. If you own a business, you have to pay part of the cost of this damage. Even if you don't own a business, part of that cost will be passed on to you through higher prices.
HOW CAN I KEEP VANDALISM FROM GETTING TO ME?
Teach By Example
As parent, you are considered responsible for your child's behavior. U.S. House Bill No. 2 states that parents can be held financially responsible for acts of vandalism committed by their children up to $1,000. Setting a good example is the best way to influence your children to behave properly.
Respect the law, plus other people's rights and property.
Don't offer excuses for lawlessness; don't be indifferent to it.
Don't break laws, no matter how small (e.g. violating traffic rules).
Protect Your Personal Property
Keep garage locked.
Use outdoor lighting.
Keep shed locked.
Keep car doors locked.
Report suspicious persons or activities near your home or your neighbor's home to your local police.
Report to authorities if you spot unusual activities at odd hours near your school, church, etc.
Work with your local newspaper and radio stations to emphasize the nature and extent of the problem.
Encourage them to publish a weekly "destruction list" enumerating acts of vandalism and the cost to taxpayers.
If you are confronted by vandals, cooperate with your local police force to see that they are caught and punished.
Encourage your family and friends to join anti-vandalism organizations. Join a townwatch in your area, or start one if there isn't one already in your neighborhood. Contact your local police department for information on townwatches in your area. Townwatches are neighbors that meet and plan preventive measures against vandalism and other crimes such as watching each other's property, patrolling the neighborhood, and reporting any suspicious activities. There are many townwatches already in effect across the U.S.
Become active in youth programs that provide young people with constructive alternatives to vandalism and enable them to take pride in their neighborhoods instead of destroying them. These include neighborhood beautification programs; community camping trips; basketball teams; or theatrical groups. You can also help develop counseling centers or anti-vandalism campaigns in schools or assist other youth groups such as the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls, Boys Clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters or other youth oriented community service organizations.
Your child will probably be exposed to vandals in his school. Make sure you discourage him from participating in their activities.
Give your child enough attention. Give plenty of love as well as discipline.
Encourage his activities, recognize his successes and help him learn from his failures. (Note: Vandalism is not only a problem among young males. Females are just as likely to become vandals. We are using the male pronoun "he", only for the ease of reading.)
Be aware of who his friends are and know how he spends his time. Give advice when needed.
If your child begins to develop serious personal problems, i.e., difficulties in relationships, drug or alcohol problems, etc., get professional counseling. It can keep minor problems from becoming major difficulties.
Now you know how vandalism can get to you. Take the time to protect your family, your community and your possessions from vandals. Make crime more trouble than it's worth.