Effects of Vandalism in Schools
‘Research and Planning Unit Papers’ contain material of a rather more specialised nature than that which appears in the Unit’s main publication outlet, the Home Office Research Studies series. As with that series, they result from research undertaken in the Home Office to assist in the exercise of its administrative functions, and for the information of the judicature, the services for which the Home Secretary has responsibility (direct or indirect) and the general public.
On the last pages of this Paper are listed titles already published in this series (the first four titles were known as Research Unit Papers), in the Home Office Research Studies series and in the earlier series Studies in the Causes of Delinquency and the Treatment of Offenders. ISBN 0 86252 070 3 ISSN 0262 – 1738 ii FOREWORD This paper reports research carried out in London on burglaries in schools.
Effects of Vandalism in Schools Essay Example
Like other recent studies of burglary, it concludes that local circumstances, principally of design, were an important (if not the only) determinant of crime, and that any measures taken to reduce the opportunity to commit this offence must be to an extent tailored to the local situation. I J CROFT Head of the Research and Planning Unit iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank those officers of the Inner London Education Authority and the Greater London Council who provided advice and a s s i s t a n c e during the research and also the headteachers and schoolkeepers of the schools involved in the project for kindly giving their time.
TIM HOPE iv CONTENTS Page Foreword iii iv Acknowledgments Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION Chapter 2 THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SCHOOL BURGLARY 5 Chapter 3 BURGLARY AND SCHOOL DESIGN 9 Chapter 4 OPPORTUNITIES FOR BURLGARY 15 Chapter 5 A REVIEW OF PREVENTIVE MEASURES 25 Chapter 6 CONCLUSION: AN APPROACH TO PREVENTION 30 Appendix METHODS OF DATA COLLECTION AND VARIABLES USED IN THE STUDY 33 REFERENCES 38 1 INTRODUCTION Burglaries in schools are only a small fraction (about 4%) of the total number of burglaries recorded by the police each year.
(1) Probably for this reason the offence has received less attention from policy-makers and criminologists than residential burglary. Schools, however, are actually at considerable risk of burglary: in London, Metropolitan Police figures suggest that a school or college is 38 times more likely to be burgled than a residential dwelling, and a similar picture seems to hold in other parts of the world (cf. National Institute of Education, 1978). Schools are also more likely to be set on fire (which may be a consequence of burglary) than all other classes of property (Home Office, 1980).
The means to control crimes against public property may well lie more in the hands of local authorities than the police (Clarke, 1978; Morris and Heal, 1981). Local education authorities already take practical steps to protect their property from burglary and vandalism but there is undoubtedly room for improvement. They also accept advice on crime prevention from the police, who in recent years have begun to encourage the active involvement of public and private institutions in the prevention of crime (Schaffer, 1980; Moore and Brown, 1981).
This can involve the police in helping local authorities to safeguard their property and drawing their attention to the crime prevention implications of day-to-day policies and practices (Engstad and Evans, 1980). This study aims to assess the scope for preventing school burglary by a range of measures which might be implemented by local education authorities. It also aims to assist the police in giving crime prevention advice to schools. As such, it is a modest attempt to extend crime prevention beyond the confines of the criminal justice system (cf. Home Office, 1977).
There seem to be four broad approaches which underlie many of the suggestions made for preventing property crime in schools (Hope, 1980). These can be thought of as the therapeutic approach, the school reform approach, the involvement approach and the opportunity-reduction (situational) approach. The therapeutic approach relies on counselling and similar techniques to dissuade ‘disturbed1 children from engaging in school crime. The school reform approach looks to the reform of school practices to forestall a destructive or criminal reaction by pupils to adverse school experiences.
The involvement approach aims to develop a positive concern for schools amongst pupils and the local community. Finally, opportunity reduction aims to make crimes more difficult to accomplish and to increase the likelihood of detection. There is little in the way of reliable evidence to suggest which of these courses are useful at first sight (Hope, 1980). The ‘therapeutic1 approach seems of limited value since its main assumption – that ‘disturbed1 children are responsible for school burglary – may well be untrue.
For example, most ‘self – report’ studies show that a wide range of young persons admit quite serious offences (cf. Gladstone, 1978; Elliot and Ageton, 1980). The other three approaches seem more promising. There is some evidence to suggest that the general ‘ethos’ of a school has a marked effect on pupil behaviour, including violence and vandalism (cf. National Institute of Education, 1978; Rutter et al. , 1979). Yet to isolate the influence of ethos on school burglary from other influences would be a lengthy and arduous task (cf. 1. This estimate is based on figures supplied by the Metropolitan Police
Rutter et al. , 1979. The ‘involvement’ approach holds that schools suffer less property crime if their pupils and the surrounding community hold them in high regard (Stone and Taylor, 1977); yet it would be a considerable undertaking to measure these sentiments and to link them to the prevalence of school burglary. This study focusses on the opportunity-reduction or ‘situational’ approach to burglary prevention since there is evidence that this approach can be useful in the prevention of a wide range of offences (Clarke and Mayhew, 1980).
At the same time, however, it collects together basic information on school organisation, pupil intake and the extent of evening use of schools, so as to facilitate some discussion of the social and educational influences on school burglaries. Hough et al. , (1980) define situational crime prevention as “measures directed at highly specific forms of crime which involve the management, design or manipulation of the immediate environment in which these crimes occur in as systematic way as possible so as to reduce the opportunities for these crime as perceived by a broad range of offenders”.
Clarke (1980) notes that this approach assumes that offenders choose to commit offences on the basis of an assessment of risks and rewards, and will look for opportunities for crime. The built-environment, in particular, provides opportunities for crime. For example, opportunities may be provided by the prevalence of persons or property as targets of crime, ease of access to property and the extent to which there are opportunities for others to witness crime taking place (Mayhew et al. , 1976).
The design of schools, and the environment in which they are located, may encourage burglary by providing opportunities of various kinds. Although manipulating opportunities may be easier than altering the motives of offenders (Clarke, 1980), such manipulation may nevertheless entail certain practical difficulties (Reppetto, 1976). Clarke (1978) has suggested that r . is necessary “to match our understanding of factors contributing f to a particular kind of (crime) with an analysis of the practicability of the various ways of preventing it”. Consequently, this study assesses
various options for preventing burglary both in terms of their causal relation to burglary and in terms of their feasibility in preventing it. Method The study took place in the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), which offered a number of advantages. First, the ILEA has a wide range of schools located both in ‘inner city1 and suburban areas. Second, records of incidents of burglary and theft maintained in the ILEA were easily accessible and seemed an adequate basis for research. (2) There were however certain difficulties in arriving at a suitable measure of the frequency of burglary in schools.
Although the modern offence of burglary is deliberately broad (Griew, 1974), covering many acts involving trespass, a more restricted definition of the offence is used here resting mainly on the fact of forced-entry. Strictly speaking, this report deals with ‘break-ins’ rather than burglaries in general which can include any theft by trespassers whether they break into premises or not. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the ILEA’s records were designed to assist in the process of accounting for the loss of equipment and did not distinguish routinely between burglaries and thefts which occurred during the school day.
It was therefore necessary to decide which records referred to burglaries and which to thefts. Four criteria were used: whether there was forced entry; whether intruders were mentioned in the record; whether the school was closed when the incident was reputed to have taken place; and whether the ILEA’s security officers had reported the incident as a burglary. Inevitably, this produced a conservative estimate of the extent of burglaries in schools. While two or more criteria were present for virtually all (93%) of the incidents defined as burglaries, 84% of them actually involved forced entry.
A second reason for defining school burglary in terms of forced entry is that this accords with the perception of people in schools. During the course of this study it became clear that most head teachers and caretakers thought of burglaries as ‘break-ins’. This may reflect lay concepts of the offence or it may reflect the evidential problem of not knowing whether a piece of equipment has disappeared as a result of a burglary or an ‘internal’ theft except when there is clear evidence, such as signs of forced entry.
Attempted burglaries (where intruders fail to gain access to school buildings) probably go unreported. Of the school caretakers who were interviewed in this study 44% said they had experienced incidents where it was unclear whether an attempt might have been made at burglary and most of them usually did not report these incidents. In contrast, only two out of the 59 caretakers interviewed (one for each school site in the study) said that they had not at some time reported an incident of forced entry.
Therefore, while this study may overlook some of the incidents which would fall within the legal definition of burglary, it probably records those incidents (involving forced entry) which cause most concern. In selecting a sample of schools it seemed sensible to restrict the possibility of bias arising from the more obvious differences between schools. For instance, the ILEA records showed that secondary schools experienced on average about three times more burglaries than primary schools. Also, both co-educational and boys’ secondary schools had on average roughly twice as many burglaries as girls’ schools.
It was thus decided to exclude both primary schools and girls’ schools because although differences attributable to the sex and age of school intakes might be important in explaining the causes of school burglary, there seems little scope for altering them appreciably. There also seemed merit in focussing attention on those schools where the problem is most severe. Another factor considered in the sampling of schools was the programme of reorganisation of schools along comprehensive lines which the ILEA were pursuing during the course of the study.
If schools which had not been reorganised had been selected, some might have closed or been amalgamated with other schools during the course of the study. It was therefore decided to focus only on those schools which had already been reorganised as comprehensives for at least two years prior to the study. A 60% random sample of schools was drawn from those ILEA coeducational 2. ILEA and police records were compared to assess the suitability of each for this study. The number of burglaries suffered by a small group of schools over a six-month period were compared.
Although the majority of burglaries could be found in either sample, the ILEA sample produced somewhat more burglaries than police records. This may be due to differences in recording practice, difficulties in tracing burglary reports in police records; or to the fact that not all burglaries are reported to the police. and boys’ schools which had been recognised by the Department of Education and Science as having a comprehensive intake since at least January 1976. This produced 46 schools. Because the study would be considering environmental factors, it was decided to treat each school site as a separate unit of analysis.
There were thirteen schools in the sample occupying two sites each, giving an effective sample size of 59 school sites. (3) The statistical analysis in this study (Chapters 3 & 4) uses data from ILEA records on the frequency of burglary at each school and covers a two-year period between January 1977 and December 1978. Preliminary analysis had suggested that the relative ordering of schools in terms of frequency of burglary remained much the same from year to year. However, two years1 figures provided a greater dispersion of burglary frequencies than one year’ s, ranging from 0 to 24 over this period.
The description of the characteristics of burglary incidents (Chapter 2) was collated from ILEA records covering a three year period (January 1975 to December 1978), during which 430 separate burglary incidents were recorded for the 59 schools. Information about burglaries was also gathered from interviews with all the headteachers (of the 46 schools) and caretakers (of the 59 school sites). Information on the educational, social, administrative and environmental characteristics of schools, their intakes and the areas in which they were located was acquired from a variety of different sources. These included:
interviews with headteachers and caretakers, information on school intakes collected by the ILEA, data from the 1971 Census, and site surveys at each school. An appendix to this report lists the variables included in this study along with a brief description of how they were measured. Summary This study was intended to provide local education authorities – the main agencies to introduce crime prevention measures in schools – with soundly-based advice on how to prevent school burglary. A situational approach to preventing school burglary was identified as promising, and it was decided to examine its prospects in detail.
In particular this meant focussing on the role of the built environment in providing opportunities for burglary. It did however prove possible to comment on certain aspects of the role of social and educational factors in school burglary. Throughout, attention was paid to the feasibility of implementing measures suggested by the research. 3. For convenience, in the remainder of this report ‘schools’ will be taken to mean separate school sites, unless otherwise stated. 2 THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SCHOOL BURGLARY This chapter presents a profile of the nature and extent of burglaries In the sample of schools.
Several different sources were used, for instance: ILEA records of burglaries over three years between 1976 and 1978; and interviews with the headteachers and caretakers of all the schools. Unfortunately it was not always possible to obtain quantitative information on the nature of school burglary and much of this chapter is necessarily impressionistic. The material is organised so as to provide a ‘crime specific analysis’ (Pope, 1977), which is intended to draw out the salient features of the offence. Between 1976 and 1978 there were 420 burglaries at the 59 schools in the sample incurring losses of about ? 71,400 at 1978 prices.
This averages out at roughly ? 170 per burglary. However, just under half these burglaries involved losses of less than ? 25 suggesting that many burglaries are fairly trivial. Nevertheless, about 30% of burglaries involved losses of more than ? 100, and the highest recorded loss of equipment during this period was ? 6,000. (1) Unfortunately it proved impossible to separate the costs involved in repairing damage caused during burglaries from the cost of other maintenance repairs to ILEA schools. For an indication of the scale of the damage it is therefore necessary to rely on the more subjective assessment of headteachers and caretakers.
When asked to rate the extent of damage occurring during burglaries, just over three-quarters of the 46 headteachers said that it usually amounted to no more than enough to gain access to buildings and equipment. The remaining 22% said that their schools suffered a certain amount of vandalism during burglaries but none said that it was particularly serious. Of course, extensive vandalism does happen during burglaries but this seems to be quite rare. Only 10 headteachers, in describing their worst burglary over the period, specifically called attention to vandalism.
Similarly most caretakers described the typical burglary as being fairly trivial with little of value stolen and not a lot of damage. School burglaries often occur at weekends since more burglaries were discovered (accordingly to ILEA records) on Sunday and Monday mornings than on any other day of the week (a different pattern from residential burglary) . However, seasonal variation in the amount of darkness bore no relation to the incidence of burglary, presumably because most school burglaries occurred after about 10 pm. Burglaries were no more likely to occur during holidays than during term time. Burglars of schools seem to
operate late at night throughout the year with a preference for weekends when there is less chance of there being anyone around. If school burglary school’s having a burglaries are usually accomplished in the dark, then a successful must involve a degree of planning and some familiarity with a layout. This is because schools are often large and complex, caretaker living on the premises and are fitted out with intruder 1. The Criminal Statistics for 1978 give an average value for property stolen in residential burglary as ? 303, and ? 240 for non-residential burglary; which are higher than the average loss during a school burglary.
Nevertheless, schools seem to have about the same proportion of trivial burglaries as other classes of property, for about half of all residential burglaries involved losses of slightly over ? 25, while half of all non-residential burglaries entailed losses of just under ? 25. 5 alarms. Burglars need to know where to go and how to avoid ‘traps’. Past and present pupils can be expected to have a good knowledge of school layout and it is therefore not surprising that 40% of headteachers said that pupils had been apprehended after breaking into their schools.
Nevertheless, it is not clear exactly how many burglaries are attributable to current school pupils nor for how many burglaries those arrested were responsible. It seems likely that people other than current pupils also break into schools, especially since the more serious losses from burglary may be the work of adults rather than children. Seeing that many schools are used by the public in the evenings for a variety of purposes, there may be ample opportunity for others to become familiar with the layout of schools. Consequently, it may be mistaken to attribute school burglary solely to current pupils.
It is not difficult to see why schools are frequently victimised for apart from being familiar to a large number of people they also contain considerable amounts of valuable and desirable equipment. Audio-visual electronic equipment seems particularly popular with the school burglar. The ILEA only record the type of property stolen during a burglary if its replacement value amounts to more than ? 25. Between 1976 and 1978 there were 179 burglaries (43%) where individual items stolen cost more than ? 25 (at 1978 prices). Audio-visual equipment was stolen in 70% of these burglaries.
Additionally, cheaper portable tape recorders were reported by headteachers and caretakers as being very vulnerable. It is clear why this kind of equipment is stolen. Not only is it amongst the most common high value portable equipment to be found in modern schools, but also its resale value on the ‘stolen goods market’ is likely to be high given the considerable demand which nowadays exists for home entertainment products (cf. Henry, 1978). Both headteachers and caretakers were asked to rate how serious a problem they considered burglary to be in comparison with other aspects of their work.
The majority of both headteachers (83%) and caretakers (55%) thought that burglary was a minor or moderate problem, but caretakers were significantly more likely to think of burglary as a serious problem (30%) than headteachers (9%). This may reflect the fact that while headteachers have general responsibility for a school, it is usually caretakers who clean up after burglaries and who are responsible for security in a day-to-day sense. Although burglaries do not seem to cause too much disruption to the school routine, a few burglaries may be very troublesome.
One headteacher reported, for instance, that losses from a particularly serious burglary had amounted to “as much as the previous 30 break-ins put together”. Also, the cost of some burglary incidents, in terms of distress and the destruction of important papers or pupils’ work, may outweigh the financial cost of damage. Types of school burglary Headteachers and caretakers were asked to describe the burglaries which occurred in their schools and to estimate how frequently they suffered from them. There were three common types of burglary which emerged.
The respondents felt that the most common form of burglary was what might be called nuisance burglary. The following descriptions from caretakers are typical: “Burglars are mostly children, teenagers, some pupils. Usually entry is via a window. Petty goods, cash etc are often stolen. Often they don’t take anything at all. Very little damage is done except to gain access. ” “Pupils, ex-pupils or teenagers from youth centre are mostly involved. They break open the table-football machine. There is some vandalism: they take sweets, etc. ” “Burglars are juveniles.
There is not much vandalism; it is more a nuisance. They are not very professional – not much is stolen. Burglaries are mostly for devilment – the school is not broken into with theft in mind. ” Typically , these burglaries may involve local adolescents (perhaps pupils or ex-pupils of the school) who seem to break into schools almost as an end in itself. They easily find their way around the building in the dark and avoid various pitfalls such as alarms or locked doors. Usually nothing of much value is stolen unless it happens to have been left lying around. Very little serious damage is done.
A window may be smashed on entry and internal connecting doors may sometimes be kicked through. Serious vandalism is rare during this kind of burglary; slogans and obscenities may be scrawled on blackboards or walls and a few items of furniture may be broken. This kind of delinquency seems to be motivated far more by an adolescent need for excitement than by any particular malicious predisposition towards schools (cf. Parker, 1974; Gill, 1977). Perhaps the next most common type of school burglary is what might be called professional burglary. For example: “Burglars are local criminals. Mostly adults.
Little damage usually occurs except to get in. Not usually any vandalism. They steal video equipment, tape recorders, amplifiers, cameras etc. ” “Intruders got into the main storeroom for audio equipment by forcing a door which had a security lock. More professional and premeditated than others”. “The two break-ins to the learning resources area were the only serious burglaries over this period. During April there were losses of ? 10,000; at Christmas ? 2,000”. These burglaries usualy exhibit a relatively high level of skill involved in entering schools and in breaking into secure stores containing audiovisual equipment.
The proceeds from these burglaries may be fairly high, reflecting the kind of equipment which is stolen – for example, video-tape recorders, stereo-equipment and electronic musical instruments. Such equipment is bulky, suggesting that transport may also have been arranged. Little incidental damage is done and burglars do not seem easily distracted from the main task of stealing equipment. A third, but (according to headteachers and caretakers) fairly rare type is what might be called malicious burglary. Paradoxically, this is probably the kind of burglary to schools which is popularly regarded as most common.
Here, intruders break into the school and damage certain areas quite severely, most often the general offices or senior teachersf rooms. For instance: “Damage was done to the office – photocopying machinery, IBM typewriter and files were rifled, ink spilt, powdered milk was brought in from outside and strewn about. There was evidence of an intent to start a fire. Estimated cost of damage: ? 3,000”. “The headmaster’s office has been vandalised during quite a few break-ins”. There may also be the occasional incident of arson, which is essentially a form of malicious burglary. Just over a quarter of headteachers said that
their schools had been subject to arson incidents. However, the consequencs of these incidents are not usually too harmful. Only five headteachers said that any serious damage had occurred or that teaching and other school activities had been disrupted as a result of arson. The prevalence of burglary Although boys’ and mixed schools were broken into more frequently than other schools, some schools within this group suffer far more from burglary than others. Some 38 schools (64%) had less than five burglaries between 1977 and 1978 including 11 schools (19%) which had no burglaries at all.
In contrast, 19% had 10 or more burglaries each during this two year period. The most victimised school had 24 burglaries. Thus although the majority of schools had relatively few burglaries, some were at considerable risk. Summary An examination of the characteristics of burglaries in 59 ILEA schools over a three-year period (1976 – 1978) confirmed that there is some justification for refining preventive thinking. There was a sufficient number of serious burglaries to cause concern, and more trivial ‘nuisance’ burglaries can be harmful if allowed to persist.
As burglaries for most schools are still relatively infrequent events, it is difficult to predict exactly when incidents are likely to occur, although evenings and weekends are the periods of highest risk. Losses are low in the majority of burglaries, but when serious theft does occur, it is most likely to be of expensive audioelectronic and visual equipment. Within this sample of relatively high-risk schools there was much variation in the number of burglaries experienced. This underlines the value of trying to determine why some schools are more prone to burglary than others and of considering how best high-risk schools might be protected.
3 BURGLARY AND SCHOOL DESIGN Situational crime prevention stresses the importance of the environment in providing incentives and opportunities for crime (Hough et al. , 1980). This chapter and the next describe how this proposition was examined with regard to burglary in schools. Plan of the research The broad hypothesis that different schools provide differential opportunities for burglary was examined in the following stages: first, schools were classified according to certain design characteristics to see whether schools of differing design had different rates of burglary.
The results are reported in this chapter. Second, schools with broadly different designs were compared to determine the extent to which differences in burglary rates were due to social and educational influences or to differential opportunities for access, surveillance and reward. Finally, two groups of schools with broadly similar designs, but differing in the extent to which they were victimised, were compared to see whether the character of schools which depart from the general relationship between burglary and design can suggest fruitful prevention possibilities.
Relating burglary to school design There are a number of ways in which the design of schools can be conceived and measured. These depend on the methods employed to collect information on school design and on how this information is organised to characterise the built environment of schools. The methods employed in this study were dictated both by the resources available for research and by the purpose for which the research was undertaken. Since the study was intended to be exploratory, it was decided to collect information on school design characteristics that was easy to obtain.
Design variables were derived from site plans of individual schools and were supplemented with observation by the researcher (see Appendix for details). This method can be contrasted with one which seeks to elicit burglars’ perceptions of school buildings. Since it did not seem particularly feasible to find a sample of school burglars who could be interviewed, it was decided to collect information on some common aspects of school design and to organise this information in such a way as to convey broad differences and similarities between schools.
Thirteen variables were selected to characterise the design of schools. These measured: scale; building configuration; building character and site character. Scale was measured by two variables : the plan areas of buildings; and site area. Building configuration was measured by three variables: the number of separate buildings; the proportion of the building area contained within the largest separate building (building concentration); and a ratio of building perimeter to area (plan compactness).
Five variables were used to express building character. These were: the height of the tallest building; the proportion of single storey buildings; the amount of glazing; whether the school was built before or after 1945; and whether the school had been substantially altered or remodelled after 1945. (1) The site 1. Schools which contain pre-1945 buildings but which were substantially altered or added to in the post-war period were classified as having been built after 1945.
and grounds were characterised by: the total area of the site; the ratio of buildings to open space; the proportion of the site under grass (including playing fields); and whether the grounds were ‘landscaped’ in any way (i. e. containing trees, shrubs, flower-beds etc. ). As a first step, a multiple regression equation was calculated using all thirteen separate design variables as predictors of the extent of burglary. Together, the thirteen design variables were significantly related to burglary and accounted for a sizeable proportion of the variation in burglary frequencies between schools.
(2) The pre-selected design variables taken together predicted the distribution of school burglary in the present sample fairly well. Nevertheless, there are a number of reasons why these findings do not greatly assist in the task of evaluating the hypothesised relationship between school design and burglary. In the first place, the variables are highly inter-related. This is to be expected since they can all be thought of as attributes of some general concept of ‘school design’.
Therefore, despite it being possible to gauge their overall effect on burglary, it is not easy to interpret the way in which they combine together to influence the rates of burglary suffered by individual schools. One method of elucidating the relationship between school design and burglary is to use techniques which take as their starting point the actual pattern of relationships between the design variables. For example, one might seek to isolate some underlying ‘dimensions’ of school design (via principal components analysis) or one might elimina