Halloween can be a scary time for local schools as vandals invariably try to target them, breaking windows, setting fires and spraying graffiti.
School board chair Ken Clarkson said the district will be stepping up security to prevent damage to district property this year.
In addition to leaving exterior lights on at all schools, the district will also be doubling security guard patrols for the weekend prior to Halloween and through Monday night, the eve of Oct. 31. District staff will be on-call all day during that time.
“The schools in central Maple Ridge seem to be the worst hit,” said Clarkson. “We see a lot of broken glass. It costs the district a lot of money, so we want to put a stop to it.”
Annually, vandalism costs the school district close to $500,000.
The district has an anti-vandalism hotline set up to help district staff and police respond quickly if someone is spotted damaging school property.
However, the hotline only works if residents use it and report suspicious activity at local schools.
“We will respond 24-7,” said Clarkson.
Garibaldi secondary principal Grant Frend said his school tries to take a proactive approach with students to prevent vandalism.
“Luckily, it hasn’t been that bad,” he said. “We do a lot of community-building events within the school, and I think that’s helping. The kids recognize that this is their school, and when they take ownership of it, they’re less likely to [commit acts of vandalism].”
Maple Ridge Fire Chief Dane Spence said the 2004 bylaw banning the sale and possession of fireworks has led to a decrease in fire-related calls on Halloween.
“Since family fireworks were taken out of the equation, there’s been a lot less spot fires and fireworks-related calls,” he said. “It can be a busy night, but it’s markedly different than how it used to be.”
However, Spence warned that jack-o-lantern candles and sparklers can still pose a fire risk, and recommended trick-or-treaters wear reflective gear to make sure they can be seen by passing motorists in the dark.
Halloween won’t be completely without fireworks, as the Maple Ridge Lions Club are sponsoring a free public fireworks display on Sunday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.
To report an act of vandalism or suspicious activity at a public school in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, call 604-466-HELP (4357). The hotline is open 24 hours.