Beyond The Bell: Graffiti, Vandalism At OKC Public Schools

Thursday, June 28th 2012, 10:31 pm
By: News 9

Graffiti at public schools and thieves targeting air conditioning units to make a cheap buck; The costs from these vandalisms can be measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and taxpayers are footing the bill.

It's an all too common sight at Oklahoma City schools; vandalism, stripped air conditioners and graffiti covering the walls.

"Ultimately the taxpayers pay for the removal. We started tracking it in January and at this point and time…we're close to $67,000 in cost," said Oklahoma City Public Schools COO, Jim Burkey. "I do not believe that we have had a building that at some point and time has not had some artwork put on it."

Graffiti is just the start, but police are tracking it.

"Actually we do have a lot of kids that are starting out in middle school with the tagging," said Oklahoma City Police Inspector, Chris Cargill.

Thieves are also targeting school air conditioners, causing thousands of dollars more in damages each year.

"It only takes about five minutes to dismantle a unit," said police inspector with the metal theft unit, Marty Stupka. "They'll get anywhere from $100 to $150 for a coil."

Replacing each unit, at minimum, costs the district $5,000. So police are cracking down on these criminals.

"Right now we're dealing with the recyclers. We had a meeting with them last November, told them our concerns and our problems and they are working with us. They give us a phone call when anybody comes in," said Stupka.

Police have doubled their arrests in the last year with this partnership. And they stress a partnership with the community to fight these crimes.

"At this point and time we are asking for our neighbors to help us out on that. We need their support in seeing things around our sites that are unusual, and making the appropriate calls to the Oklahoma City Police Department," Burkey said.

The school district is looking at how other districts across the country deal with graffiti and copper theft problems. Seattle public schools actually turn off all their lights instead of keeping them on, but district administrators say results vary.

Victims of graffiti tagging can collect restitution of up to three times the amount it costs to remove it. Stealing copper is punishable by up to five years in jail.