Playground fire is Richmond’s ninth in three years

Posted at 8:09 PM, Aug 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-18 23:35:17-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Seared slides, charred swings and mangled metal is what remains of the Fairfield Elementary School playground after someone torched it Friday.

Arsonists are to blame.

"This is beyond frustrating, says Richmond School Board member, Kim Gray. "It is $150,000 dollars to replace a playground like this."

This is the ninth city playground to burn in the last three years.

The crime was not caught on surveillance because there are no cameras at Fairfield Elementary or any other school playground. In 2013 the landscape firm Human and Rohde found that security cameras are proven to diminish or eliminate crimes like arson. Their study was commissioned by City Hall.

"The presence of cameras and cooperation with the local authorities has proven to deter or eliminate vandalism and arson where this approach has been implemented," researchers concluded in that study. "The solution may be installing security cameras and lights to monitor activity at the playground."

"I think it is a huge deterrent to have cameras and lighting at our schools," says Gray, who explains why Richmond hasn't installed cameras.

"It comes down to funding," says Gray

In other school districts with similar expensive and destructive acts of vandalism they started installing cameras to deter the criminals.

Dan Carney, head of security with Blue Valley Schools in Kansas, says his district turned to technology after a rash of playground fires.

"I hope this deters people from doing things that they should not be doing," says Carney. "I'm a big believer in cameras. They are preventative. When people know they are there they are less likely to act up."

Donnie Watson, who witnessed the fire, says the city needs to find the money for cameras or else.

"It is not the first. Won't be the last. I feel we'll see some more soon," says Watson. "I feel real bad for the children because that is where they play."