St. John's -
The $6.8 million Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Centre, which opened two years ago, has become a target for vandals and thieves, and facility manager and high performance director Rod Snow said it has become a "a significant problem for us."
Snow said three cars were broken into and some items stolen during the recent Volleyfest tournament at the St. John's facility, situated on Crosbie Road. He said, as with previous break-ins, the police were notified
"Clearly," said Snow, "we are seriously concerned the Sports Centre, provincial sports organizations and our users have been victimized by these crimes."
Snow said while there have been vandalism problems since the facility opened, car break-ins and theft "have really only been over the last two months and they only occur on the busiest nights or (during) special events when the parking lot is full."
As far as the Sports Centre is concerned, he said there is a large sign in the PowerPlex lobby warning people not to leave anything in their cars.
"On top of this," he added, "we have made announcements to users and spectators at special events about the recent rash of vehicle break-ins in the area.
The Sports Centre had a vandalism problem even before it officially opened in July of 2008. It cost the Centre $15,000 to replace broken windows, although that problem has been rectified by the installation of $20,000 worth of steel security screens.
"Combating graffiti is not too significant. (It requires) a bucket of paint per month as well as labour costs, but it adds up over time," said Snow. "Small fires (in the area) have also been an issue."Snow said vandalism is a problem in the general area around the Sports Centre and noted the Swilers Rugby Complex, which is adjacent to the Centre, has had a storage container burnt out, numerous fires set to the club's deck, fires on the field, and doors battered from attempted break-ins.
"My understanding," said Snow, "is that the Swilers have hosted the Crosbie Road Tenants Association and Neighborhood Watch groups in the area at the club to also help combat the problems."
Snow said the City of St. John's has indicated vandalism is "a significant problem" throughout the city and not just at the Sports Centre.
"In any case," he added, "there have been increased police patrols in the area and we have certainly noticed their presence.
"Besides notifying the police for extra patrols, we've had extra staff on to patrol the parking lot at regular intervals and have observed some benefit from it," explained Snow who is frustrated by the vandals boldness.
"On occasions when our staff have seen suspicious characters in the parking lot, they've alerted them to our presence, called the police to file a report and still suffered a break-in later in the evening.
"This past weekend," he added, "one of the break-ins was in broad daylight at our busiest time and (with) equally busy parking lot, with people coming and going at almost every minute of the day.
"The perpetrators of these crimes do not seem to be concerned or deterred by daylight or the presence of Sports Centre's users and staff. If these criminals see anything valuable in a vehicle, even as little as pocket change, the consequences and risks associated with the theft seem to be of little bother or trouble for them," said Snow.
"I understand and share the frustrations of the victims of the vandalism and theft. Clearly, we want people to enjoy this incredible facility without the worry and bother associated with these crimes.
Snow said the Centre will continue to make every effort to deny the vandals and thieves "the opportunity to diminish the enjoyment of participating and attending events, though at times he admitted, "It's been a real struggle.
"It's regrettable, but understandable that these type of things tarnish our reputation which is otherwise intact as a fantastic facility for the training and competition for athletes in multiple sports from all over the province."