VANDALS, thieves and arsonists have struck at Suffolk schools at least 140 times in just one year, it has been revealed.
Their crimes have cost nearly £3 million, although £2.7m of the total was caused through damage to St Felix School in Newmarket in an arson attack by former pupil Daniel Mitson, 15, in August last year.
Another large insurance claim from the remaining £243,000 was at Whitehouse County Infants in Ipswich, which had to spend £25,542.70 after nearly 100 windows were smashed in February this year.
Other substantial payouts were arsons at Great Cornard School on Boxing Day costing £16,694, and at Orwell High School in Felixstowe which caused damage valued at £12,000.
Last week a 14-year-old boy was given a curfew and a supervision order after admitting the Great Cornard arson.
Vandalism cost the county’s schools £103, 851, while thefts ran up a bill for £107,523.
The figures for the financial year April 1, 2008, to March 31, 2009, were revealed after a Freedom of Information request to Suffolk County Council by the East Anglian Daily Times. Only costs for more than £100 were requested.
Two Ipswich schools suffered the most when it came to the volume of crimes. Westbourne High School in Marlow Road accounted for 10% of the total, with the 14 offences amounting to £22,936. Chantry High School was targeted 13 times by thieves and vandals whose crimes came to £23,972.
Other significant individual costs were £6,421 at St Margaret’s Primary School in Ipswich, and £6,247 at Thurleston High School in Ipswich. Both were for thefts.
A vast majority of the vandalism cases involved missiles being thrown at glass.
A senior county council figure was appalled that schools had been targeted. He also added that they had a psychological and financial impact on education budgets.
Councillor Graham Newman, portfolio holder for Children Schools and Young People’s Services, said: “People who target schools with mindless acts of vandalism need to understand that their actions have a significant impact on both the school and the wider community.
“Schools have to divert more of their annual budgets to increasing security measures, rather than invest in new and improved facilities or equipment to help young people achieve the very best they can.”
“Not only is there the physical damage to schools and equipment, but these incidents can also have a psychological affect on the children and members of staff, similar to when someone breaks into your home.
“If at any time you see any suspicious behaviour in or around a school, particularly out of normal hours, we would be extremely grateful if you would contact the police by dialling 999.”