Protecting Your Playground From Vandalism
illions of dollars are spent every year on cleaning up graffiti, and repairing and replacing vandalized equipment. In fact, according to Keep America Beautiful Inc., the city of San Jose, Calif., spends about $3 million a year fighting graffiti. Minneapolis spends $4 million, and Portland, Ore., spends $2 million.
Playgrounds are a common target for graffitists and vandals. Vandalized play equipment can be unsafe, and what's worse, when graffiti is not cleaned up quickly, it can draw more negative behavior.
Of course, we all want our playgrounds to be safe from damage, and we want to ensure that children at play are safe as well. There are proactive steps you can take to prevent problems.
Q: What are some steps we can take to discourage graffiti and vandalism at our playground?
A: The best way to deal with graffiti and vandalism is to prevent it in the first place. Try to get your community actively involved at your park. The more eyes and the more people watching, the less likely someone is going to engage in criminal behavior.
Vandal-resistant materials can also be useful in areas that are prone to graffiti. Some manufacturers make equipment with easy-to-clean materials that resist graffiti and are less easy to vandalize.
Regularly monitor your park for problems. If you find that vandalism has occurred, swift action is critical. Graffiti that remains in place for more than a day or two is a sign to others that no one cares about maintenance, and is likely to lead to further problems. Before you remove it, call the police and let them know. Take photos, and consider consulting with your playground manufacturer to find the best method for removal.
Q: We know that the best way to prevent problems is to maintain an active presence at the site. But what about overnight when no one is around to see what could be happening?
A: Monitoring and lighting are both essential. If possible, the police, uniformed park rangers or security guards should make regular sweeps to check for problems.
You can also find security products that are helpful in deterring vandals at parks and playgrounds. The better lit the site is, for instance, the less likely vandals will be able to go unseen. You can actually find integrated lighting systems for your playground that will help eliminate shadowy hiding places.
In addition, bad things can happen when no one is watching, especially after hours when kids and their parents have left for the day. You can find integrated video monitoring for your playground. This will allow you to keep an eye on things around the clock.
In addition, if vandalism or another type of crime does occur at your site, the digitally recorded video can help with suspect identification.
Q: How can we keep teens and others from loitering on the playground? We're worried they'll do damage to the equipment after hours.
A: You can find a product that discourages disruptive after-hours gatherings by emitting an ultrasonic tone that's extremely unpleasant to those between the ages of 13 and their early 20s. It can even be tuned to a slightly lower frequency that impacts those ages 19 to 25 if loitering by older age groups is a problem on your playground. The good news is that this sound is not detectable by your kids under the age of 12 or by pets.
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