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10 fires in North Delta last year as park vandalism rose 25 per cent

391 total incidents reported across Delta last year, with repairs costing the city $120,454
Damage from a fire in the men’s washroom at Annieville Park on Nov. 5, 2023, took six weeks to be repaired. The blaze was one of 11 reported in park washrooms that year, 10 of which took place in North Delta. (Delta Police Department/submitted photo)

Vandalism in Delta parks cost the city more than $120,000 last year as the number of incidents increased by nearly 25 per cent from 2022.

A report to council Monday afternoon (April 8) outlined the number and types of acts reported in 2023, comparing the totals by community and their associated remuneration costs to those of 2022.

The total number of incidents involving vandalism — which include illegal dumping, graffiti, property damage and fires — climbed 24.25 per cent in 2023, from 300 to 391, while the associated cost of repairing said vandalism rose by 22.61 per cent, from $93,227.97 to $120,454.69.

“While incidents vary in terms of necessary restoration and repairs to municipal assets, the cumulative costs associated with vandalism can be significant,” the report states.

“Acts of vandalism can have a large impact on municipal resources, often keeping staff from performing their regular daily park maintenance duties. Washroom and fieldhouse damage continues to be a primary concern, as the scope of damage and costs for repairs are often substantial.”

Almost half of the incidents last year (190) happened in North Delta. Those local incidents cost the city $46,642.45 and took 657.25 staff hours to remediate. Compare that to 2022, when North Delta saw 162 total incidents, costing $49,376.85 and taking 514 hours for staff to fix.

Broken down by type, last year there were 72 instances of graffiti in North Delta parks, 66 incidents resulting in property damage, 36 cases of illegal dumping, six reports of broken glass and 10 fires.

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Ladner saw 95 acts of vandalism in 2023 — 55 instances of graffiti, 29 incidents of property damage, eight cases of illegal dumping and three reports of broken glass — costing $22,232.33 and requiring 109 staff hours.

Tsawwassen, meanwhile, saw 106 acts of vandalism: 54 instances of graffiti, 45 incidents of property damage, four cases of illegal dumping, two reports of broken glass and one fire. Together, they cost the city $39,332.40 and 430.25 hours of staff time.

The report also lists $12,248.51 in “miscellaneous costs” associated with vandalism in city parks.

”While the level of vandalism is still manageable within available budgets, staff continue to look at options and best practices to both deter and address incidents of vandalism,” the report states.

Staff note a number of strategies have already been implemented to help stop vandalism or minimize its impact, such as automated washroom locking systems, improved reporting through the LetsTalkDelta platform, focused patrols by city bylaw officers, security cameras and better lighting.

“Many acts of vandalism, such as graffiti, are unfortunately challenging to curtail through design adjustments, although providing open sightlines and lighting throughout the city’s parks can help. These types of improvements are implemented at existing facilities to act as a deterrent wherever possible,” the report states.

The city’s parks department has also focused over the past few years on designing resilient infrastructure to lessen the impact of larger, more damaging acts such as fires inside remote buildings.

Staff have developed a new robust standardized washroom design using concrete for walls and all-metal furnishings (hand dryers, sinks, tables and toilets) to mitigate and sometimes even prevent damage from incidents such as garbage can and toilet paper fires, as well as to make the facilities easier to clean.

“While the cost to construct washrooms using the new standard is higher than that of previous older designs, the difference in construction can result in vastly lower costs to repair damage and, in some cases, damage is avoided altogether,” the report states. “A small garbage fire in an older washroom will usually require a remediation company and require a full restoration. In newer buildings, a garbage fire can often just require a good cleaning by staff.”

As an example, the 2021-built washroom at Delview Park was reopened only a few days after a fire was set inside it last fall, while the older, more “residential-style construction” facility at Annieville Park, with its drywall interior, was closed for six weeks after vandals lit off fireworks inside the structure on Nov. 9, 2023.

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James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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