Gary Hardy replaces a broken window at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center Monday. Meredith Spencer~The Vicksburg Post
Vandals are throwing rocks from a gravel drive across the street from the old gym at Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation (SCHC) our old school S.F.X.A.
When Heidi Chausse arrived at the SCHC to teach karate classes one afternoon this month, shards of glass from a window broken by rock-hurling vandals lay among the mats where barefoot students practice kicks and chops.
The police were called. Class was canceled. "We didn't want anyone to get hurt," said Chausse, whose business, Vicksburg Tang Soo Do karate, has leased space at the SCHC for about five years.
Annette Kirklin, executive director of the foundation that owns the center, said the vandalizm was a particularly annoying example of an ongoing problem at the complex, which consists of the buildings bounded by Adams, Cherry, Clay and Crawford streets that once housed St. Francis Xavier Convent and Academy.
Since 2008, The SCHC has spent $860 repairing glass and Plexiglass windows broken or otherwise damaged by rocks Kirklin said. She estimates about 30 windows have had to be replaired. The money to repair or replace them is diverted from an annual budget of about $200.000 funded by national, state and local grants, as well as dues from individual and corporate members.
"For us, thats painful," Kirklin said.
And, she said, the problem has intensified over the past year. Since last August, the center had norified Vicksburg police eight times about individual incidents of vandalism, according to Kirklin and copies of police reports documenting the center's complaints.
All but one of the reports are from July or August - months when area schools are out.
Kirklin said neighbors of the center have dialed 911 after seeing youth throwing rocks at the center.
In a recent 911 call, the neighbors "described everything from the shirts that (the vandals) had on to the underwear that they were showing," Kirklin said. "I mean, what else can you do?"
Last week, Kirlin said, she urged Police Chief Walter Armstrong to step up patrols around Adams and Clay streets, where a patch of rocks across from the northern side of the complex offers an arsenal to would-be vandals.
She also said she's mulling the possibility of installing borrowed security cameras on the SCHC's premises, as long as the center's insurance carrier provides assurances that damages to the equipment will be covered.
Armstrong said police are stepping up patrols.
"Of course, Clay Street is a main throughfare, so we're patrolling through them frequently anyway," Armstrong said.
"We don't have anyone posted at the particular, but I have asked for more attention to be paid to "the SCHC itself, he said.
Armstrong said the problem is one that defies easy prevention.
Meanwhile, Chausse said she and husband, Bill, have no plans to let the vandalism run them off.
The SCHC is "a good location," Chausse said.
"And I'm really not afraid that a rock is gong to come flying through our windows in the middle of a class," she said. ~The Vicksburg Post