Vandalism at school is under investigation

November 09, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

HAGERSTOWN - The principals at South Hagerstown and North Hagerstown high schools were working together with police Monday to find out who vandalized South High's campus with spray paint over the weekend and to prevent retaliation.

The messages in some places crossed out the school's name and wrote North or NHHS. Other graffiti included derogatory messages about South High and a racial epithet, said Sgt. Curt Wood of the Hagerstown Police Department.

The spray paint was red and black, which are North High's colors. North High's football team beat South High 39-0 in Friday night's Hagerstown Gridiron Championship Classic at School Stadium, which is on South's campus.


The schools are offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest, Washington County Board of Education Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said Monday.

South High Principal Rick Akers and North High Principal Robert "Bo" Myers said they did not know who committed the vandalism, but emphasized it might not have been North High students.

"I don't want a situation where some of our kids decide to go over to their school and do something. That would be a disaster," Akers said Monday afternoon.

Some of the spray paint was cleaned up by the time students arrived at school Monday morning, Akers said.

The only permanent damage might be to the sign near the school entrance because abrasive cleaners cannot be used on it, Akers said.

Myers said North High students were told about the damage and advised of the legal and school penalties for vandalism, including suspension.

Akers estimated the cleanup, including employee hours, could cost approximately $2,000 or more.

Malicious destruction of property more than $500 has a maximum penalty of up to three years in jail and/or $2,500 in fines, according to the Washington County District Court Commissioner's office.

Malicious destruction of property less than $500 has a maximum penalty of up to 60 days in jail and/or $500 in fines.

Both are misdemeanors.

Akers said he learned of the vandalism Sunday night when the school's head custodian called him.

A sport utility vehicle was seen in the area Sunday night, Wood said.

At 9:13 p.m., police received a report from someone who reported seeing a dark-colored, possibly black, sport utility vehicle in South's parking lot with several occupants, Wood said.

The caller saw someone get out of the SUV and retrieve what might have been a spray paint can, Wood said.

At around 10:15 p.m., a uniformed police officer saw a black SUV in the parking lot with its headlights off and the map light on, Wood said.

It was not known whether the officer was responding to the area to check out the earlier report, Wood said.

Anyone with information about the SUV or the vandalism may call the Hagerstown Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division at 301-790-3700, ext. 234, Wood said.

Tips also may be called in to Hagerstown Police Officer Steve Cromer, who is stationed at South High, at 301-766-8376, Mowen said.

Wood said most of the vandalism was done from the school's roof. Graffiti was sprayed on school signs, exterior walls, windows, skylights and the gym roof.

Myers said North High was vandalized the night of Oct. 29 with derogatory remarks about the school written on an exterior wall and a lamppost's concrete base.

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