School district officials hope two arrests made by RCMP this weekend will put an end to a rash of school break-ins that started at the beginning of January.
A 32-year-old woman and 34year-old man, both of Chilliwack, were arrested at the back of Tyson elementary at 4 a.m. Sunday morning and charged with one count of break and enter each.
Mounties are now investigating whether the pair was also involved in the many other incidents around the district in recent weeks, RCMP spokesperson Const. Tracy Wol-beck told the Times Wednesday.
Over the last month and a half, there have been almost three times as many break-ins at school district buildings than the previous four months combined-with 12 incidents in January and 16 in February already, according to a report by secretary-treasurer Maureen Carradice at a school board meeting Tuesday.
Since the arrest Sunday, however, no further break-ins have been reported, and Wol-beck said local police are optimistic.
"We are hoping as a result of the arrests that the break and enters and vandalism to the schools sees a decrease, and we will continue our proactive approach to this issue," she said.
Break ins and theft usually make up the smallest portion of the district's budget for vandalism, but the dramatic increase in recent weeks sparked Carradice's report, which outlined measures the district has in place to thwart thieves.
The district has spent more than $200,000 on loss prevention
projects this year, including intruder alarms at all schools and portables, security cameras at 18 sites, and roll shutters and security screens installed in high-risk areas.
One anti-vandalism measure that hasn't worked to prevent the recent spike in break-ins, however, is the district's long-standing "dark schools" policy.
The district keeps school grounds dark to prevent youthful vandalism-like window-breaking and graffiti-inspired by an impulse to show off in front of peers.
"If the campus is dark so they can't actually see or show off what they're doing, they're less inclined to spray-paint walls and do all that kind of stuff," Carradice told the Times in an interview last month.
When it comes to break-ins, however, she told trustees the policy tends to aid culprits rather than thwart them.
"The difficulty with a dark campus is, while it discourages vandalism of the type that we normally think, it actually gives a pretty nice environment for theft, so the thefts that have been occurring over the last six weeks have been, to some degree, facilitated by the fact that our sites are dark," she said.
But given the arrests and that break-ins usually make up the smallest portion of vandalism costs, Carradice said the district will stick with the policy.