Despite being completely boarded up several months ago, a long-vacant school in Fruitvale is still being targeted by vandals and thieves.
The latest spate of reported mischief was the first weekend of 2020 when copper pipes were ripped out of an undisclosed area of the school, and stolen.
Why copper pipes?
Sgt. Mike Wicentowich says this type of theft is common in every community and is often used to fund drug addiction.
“The Trail and Greater District RCMP received a complaint from the Village of Fruitvale about chronic break-ins to the former school located at 1800 Columbia Gardens Road,” he told the Trail Times.
“A small amount of copper pipes had been stolen from the shuttered facility and suspected drug use occurring inside,” he continued.
“Unfortunately, abandoned or shuttered facilities are often targeted by copper thieves for this very reason. Stolen copper is generally untraceable, can be ready-sold, and can fetch a reasonable amount of money.”
The old school was actually subject to a trio of break-ins that weekend, the first was on Friday, Jan. 3 and the third on Jan. 6.
“The perpetrators are using tools to break in through the locked doors and removing the boards used to secure the building,” administrator Kelli Tuttle reported at Jan. 13 council.
“Once inside, copper piping is being removed from the building with the assumption that the copper is being sold for cash,” she said.
“There is also some debris left behind which may indicate the use of drugs inside the building. The RCMP have been called, but without any indication of the identity of the perpetrators, there is little that can be done by the RCMP,” Tuttle noted.
“The village’s only option to further secure the building is to install surveillance cameras in an attempt to identify the individuals.”
The municipality is also looking at options that will tie into its current security at Haines Park.
Wicentowich concurred saying, “We recommend that anyone who owns or manages an unoccupied property and buildings to regularly attend and inspect it, install a basic security system with camera, or employ a security service.”
He asks the public to report copper thefts to the RCMP even if it is for information purposes only.
“We will monitor these types of properties when we can or respond to calls for service, however, the security is the responsibility of the owner or manager,” the sergeant said.
“Copper theft can be a very difficult crime to solve given its nature, so prevention and awareness are the best solutions.”
To report theft, call the Greater Trail detachment’s non-emergency line at 250.364.2566.
The former Beaver Valley Middle School has been vacant since 2003. Besides disrepair, the facility has been subject to vandalism over the years.
The village bought the property through foreclosure in January 2018. Last fall, municipal staff secured the windows with boards after many panes were smashed and paint was splashed on the premises.
There were also indications of squatting.
Council has yet to secure a plan for memorabilia still inside the old school such as trophies, plaques and sports uniforms.