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Vandals run amok as seven schools hit with graffiti
MARYSVILLE Vandals ruled the weekend in town despite efforts of the Marysville Police Department to curb a rising tide of graffiti tagging and property damage.
More than six schools in the Marysville School District were hit over the last week, some several times. Damage to Marysville-Pilchuck High School was estimated at more than $5,000 in time and material during the weekend of Jan. 20 to 21, and more damage was done during night of Jan. 27 and 28 when six more properties in the district were hit with profane graffiti taunting the police. The worst damage was at Allen Creek Elementary School, which had windows broken out early in the night as the Marysville Police Department had a group of seven additional officers staking out likely targets in the city.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, Jan. 28, the school was visited again by vandals who painted profanity and drug slogans on the wall of the kindergarten through fifth-grade school.
Teacher Darlene Strand was fed up as she watched her third-graders line up for class next to a wall defaced with the phrase SMOKE POT spray-painted in letters five feet tall. She said the only cure would be to have people stakeout the buildings on weekends, holing up in classrooms with the lights out, ready to call 911 when vandals arrive. She said she was more than willing to do so herself.
What we are doing now isnt working, Strand said.
The M-PHS damage was so extensive the district will be filing a claim with its insurance carrier, according to maintenance director Keith Stefanson.
We are well over $5,000, Stefanson said.
That was before this weekends rampage when M-P was hit again. Other properties damaged included the Tenth Street School, Marysville Junior High School, Cedarcrest Middle School, Marshall Elementary School, the SHOPP home-schooling facility at Grove Street and 67th Avenue and Allen Creek Elementary, which was hit twice.
The portables at the school were damaged early in the evening of Saturday, Jan. 27, and a district worker was called in to board up the broken windows. No graffiti was noticed at that time, but by the next morning it covered the walls of the school.
City parks were hit as well; the brand-new Ebey Waterfront Park was hit for the second weekend in a row, with more split-rail fencing damaged and extensive tagging to the entry walls of the mens bathroom, according to Marysville Parks and Recreation Department maintenance manager Mike Robinson. He said his department had just painted the fence bordering the SkatePark on Columbia Avenue when it was targeted by taggers last weekend.
The damage to the schools can be costly, according to Stefanson, who noted that his district has more than 200 shades of paint to match, and some of those are expensive formulas that can be applied in cold weather. His crews had most of the graffiti covered within hours, except for difficult surfaces such as brick.
He spoke at a Jan. 25 meeting of a city-wide graffiti task force convened to deal with a year-long problem. Representatives from the school district, city parks, police and other departments mulled options such as publishing the names of convicted offenders or forming an intervention group similar to DARE used to keep kids off of drugs. Police officer Bronwyn Kieland noted that most vandalism charges are misdemeanors and juveniles arent likely to get serious sentences or fines. Marysville City Council member Carmen Rasmussen suggested legislation that would allow prosecutors to attach a graffiti enhancement on to charges such as trespassing to increase penalties vandals faced.
My staff is willing to come in at night and help with security, they are so frustrated, Robinson said at the task force meeting. Right now with the nice weather we are being hit daily.
That prompted his boss, parks director Jim Ballew to bring up the dark side of prevention costs. Ballew estimated at least $30,000 in damage of the last six months from vandals but noted that it cost money to guard buildings at night. A district security representative noted that one guard patrols two buildings and they were still hit.
If we start to show our community that our costs are rising, they might begin to understand that we need more resources, Ballew said.
City Council member Jeff Vaughan said he has been driving around in the wee hours Im so mad I just want to catch one of these buggers.
The task force will continue to meet every two weeks as Marysville continues to write legislation to curb vandalism.