Fairfax County Police are combating an unprecedented trend: Swimming pool vandalism.
According to police, during the past year, community pools have been vandalized at an alarming rate. In 2011, there were 44 incidents at community pools in the West Springfield Police District alone, police said.
“These incidents cost homeowners’ associations thousands of dollars and often result in extensive pool closures,” said police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell.
According to Caldwell, the vandalism has taken on many forms — graffiti, items thrown into pools, tiles being smashed and the destruction of outdoor furniture.
Eighteen of the 44 West Springfield incidents in 2011 included theft or larceny, police said.
In 2012, there have been three similar incidents.
On May 14, large landscaping stones were found at the bottom of Truro pool, 4146 Elizabeth Lane. That same day, at nearby Long Branch pool, 9100 Burnetta Drive, police responded to a report of two juveniles trespassing on the pool property. No damage was discovered, but the juveniles fled before police arrived.
In the most recent incident, on June 2 at Canterbury Woods pool, 510 Southampton Drive, police discovered large amounts of graffiti.
“There was very vulgar language painted on signs,” said Caldwell.
Police have created an informational poster that explains the consequences of pool vandalism, and are distributing them throughout the West Springfield District.
Bob Walla, president of the ILDA Community Recreation Association Board which oversees the Ilda pool, 8900 Braeburn Drive, Annandale, has seen the posters and is concerned.
“We had some graffiti within the past year, and I have personally chased down some guys who were up to no good at our pool,” he said. “Not long ago, some kids broke into our snack bar, but we found out who they were and we handled the situation. They were not kids from our neighborhood.”
According to Walla, his recreation board has taken a unique approach in combating the trend.
“We have changed our attitude a bit,” he said. “We are no longer of the mentality that this is a facility run by adults for children. We have involved our youth in taking ownership of our pool, and they now have a stake in it, which helps prevent them from developing destructive thoughts.”
Walla said area teens help to maintain the pool and even are consulted in administrative decisions. He added there still is concern about outside vandals.
Police have offered homeowner associations and recreation boards advice and security tips.
“Crime prevention officers stress that inadequate or non-functioning lighting are two of the major security deficiencies found at many neighborhood pools,” Caldwell said. “Residents are encouraged to notify management when they see lights that aren’t properly functioning or don’t cover most of the property and to help prevent their pools from being targeted by summertime vandals.”
According to police, pool vandals can be charged with a Class VI felony, which can result in one to five years imprisonment and fines of as much as $2,500.
“This is serious,” Caldwell said. “If evidence ties one group or one individual to all these incidents, the consequences will be astronomical.”