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School Vandalism and Break-Ins

NCJ Number
Kelly Dedel Johnson
Date Published
August 2005
80 pages
After profiling the problem of school vandalism and break-ins, this manual provides guidelines for assessing this problem locally and developing effective responses.
A discussion of school vandalism and break-ins notes factors that contribute to the problem, including offender characteristics, motivations, times, and targets. Offenders are typically young males acting in small groups under a range of motivations that include theft, stopping school operations, protesting school policies, and the expression of frustration or rage. An assessment of the problem locally should involve an analysis of incidents, targets, offenders, times, community characteristics, and the nature of current responses and their effectiveness. In designing responses based on this analysis, general considerations are to recognize the person-environment interaction, establish a task force, use the media wisely, set priorities, and operate at the district level. Specific responses to the problem are presented under the following categories of actions: changes to the physical environment, offender-focused responses, school management practices, and community-focused responses. The manual also identifies responses to the problem that have shown limited effectiveness. These are control of the sale of vandalism tools, such as age-specific bans on the sale of spray paint or wide-tipped markers that might be used to apply graffiti; and increasing criminal justice and administrative punishment for school vandalism and break-ins. Appended summary of responses to school vandalism and break-ins, 57 references, and 17 annotated recommended readings