Thursday, September 19, 2002

West Chester school seeks help to fight break-ins, vandalism

Neighbors asked to help look out for problems at Adena Elementary site

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Educators at Adena Elementary School are hoping the school's neighbors will provide extra eyes to help curb a growing vandalism problem.

        Between June 11 and Sept. 17, police took six reports of damage or break-ins at the school, mostly on weekends or overnight. It has included two shattered windows in the principal's office, stolen school carnival prizes from the Parent Teacher Organization's shed on the property, and the spray-painting of obscenities and graffiti on the school.

        “It seems to be happening more frequently and is of a more serious nature,” Principal Tony Bagshaw said Wednesday. “This past summer seems to be more of a concern.”

        Wednesday, PTO members began distributing a letter written by Mr. Bagshaw to homes surrounding the school, said Mary Ann Ramhap, Adena's PTO president. The letter asks anyone who sees anything suspicious at the school to call West Chester Township police or school officials.

        In the letter, Mr. Bagshaw describes five incidents:

        • Spray painting obscenities on the building on several occasions

        • Skateboarding on and damaging new benches paid for by the PTO

        • Breaking into the PTO storage shed to steal items.

        • The shattering of two large picture windows during a three-day period a week before school started.

        • A branch thrown at another picture window this week, and obscenities painted on the building.

        Ms. Ramhap said she has had to replace the PTO shed lock three times this summer. . On one occasion, a small fire was set.

        “My biggest concern is someone getting in there and getting hurt.,” she said.

        Sgt. Mike Quinn said police are increasing their patrols near the school.

        “It's unusual to have that many (incidents) at a school,” Sgt. Quinn said. “We are still investigating the graffiti. There are names on the walls and other evidence we're processing. We have no prime suspects yet.”

        There were 36 business break-ins in the township between June 13 and Sept. 2, police said. Serious crime is also on the increase, with 1,441 serious crimes reported in 2000, 1,654 reported last year and 1,296 reported through the end of August, said Chief Bruce John.

        “We have graffiti damage all the time,” the chief said. “It seems to move from one place to another.

        “I have no doubt that once we get it under control (at the school) it will move someplace else.”


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