For the most part, those of us living in Rankin Inlet have been pretty lucky when it comes to major acts of vandalism over the years, especially when compared to many other Nunavut communities.
Break-and-enters have been a far bigger problem over the past two decades than vandalism.
Now that worm seems to have turned a bit and folks are getting pretty heated, pretty fast.
Communities have wrestled with vandalism for millenia, it seems, give or take a few years. It occurs in the biggest cities and the smallest of rural towns; it is committed by both males and females. There is no single catch-all method of understanding vandalism, let alone preventing it.
There are seven accepted types of vandalism: acquisitive, tactical, ideological, vindictive, play, peer pressure and malicious. But the substantiated reasons for vandalism range from anger and boredom, to racial and ethnic tensions, socio-economic disparity and personal issues.
Further adding to the problem is that many people insist on placing the word ‘senseless’ in front of vandalism, which combine to trigger high-voltage, emotional responses like anger, helplessness and fear.
What may be ‘senseless’ from the view at your particular station in life, may make perfect sense to someone who sees themselves on the bottom rungs of the social ladder and has already had a bellyful of feeling put-upon by those above him or her.
The recent window-breaking at our schools could have come about from nothing more than an adolescent’s spur-of-the-moment discovery of the intoxicating sense of empowerment felt each time a window shatters loudly in the night.
In many cases, they do not yet understand emotions well enough to realize the twinge of excitement they feel mixed amongst their new-found power stems from the fear of being caught.
At that moment, in such a heightened emotional state, they also do not realize they are but one small step away from going into full fight-or-flight mode, which is why dangerous things can (and do) happen when a vandal is caught in the act by anyone other than a peace officer.
It is also why that unwillingness to ‘pay the price’ if caught can be somewhat effective in deterring vandalism, especially in smaller towns and communities. This only works if the community actively supports the police to establish that if you’re caught, you will be prosecuted.
This approach can help get a youth off of a very dangerous path. Research shows that just like many shoplifters increasingly target bigger or more-expensive items after each success, teenagers involved with vandalism often move on to bigger crimes.
Vandalism affects people’s quality of life and it makes communities feel less safe. It is a crime, most often committed by people old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, and, as such, must be punished.
Getting that message out loud and clear, especially in a community the size of Rankin, may prevent vandalism from increasing and keep a youth or two from finding themselves in a dark situation.
It’s a move worth making.