Revisiting Restroom Vandalism

Have troubles with portable restroom vandalism decreased or increased in your service area?
Revisiting Restroom Vandalism
Large public gatherings can provide potential for restroom vandalism. (Photo by Peter Krupp)

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Recent reports reaching from Connecticut to California — and likely places in between as well — have noted that some portable restroom operators have been dealing with pockets of vandalism. Some range from minor graffiti to overturned restrooms to more serious offenses. 

But fortunately, some of the operators we talked with recently have noted improvements — or no recent events of vandalism. For whatever reason, the PROs we surveyed seem to agree that vigilance and not giving vandals the opportunity are part of their successes. 

“In our market, it hasn’t been much of a problem,” says small operator Kurt VandenPlas of VandenPlas Sanitation in Denmark, Wis. He has about 500 units and services a county with 250,000 residents, primarily for special events and construction. 

He says he might lose a unit once every five years, and graffiti is really the biggest concern. “One of our real efforts is to clean the graffiti as soon as it happens,” he says. 

This past year, he did have one unit damaged by a small fire in a unit set up for a backyard party. While they don’t have anything specific in their rental contracts, they pass the cost along to the renter. 

That’s pretty typical, although some restroom operators offer damage waivers, designed to protect renters against additional charges incurred for vandalism, accidental damage or theft of equipment. 

“Customers are more mindful of things like that happening,” says Jordan Serenkin, vice president of sales and marketing for Russell Reid/Mr. John, a waste management firm in New Jersey. He estimates about 20 percent of their customers purchase the damage waivers. 

The company, one of the largest in the nation, has an inventory of about 10,000 portable restrooms. Their service area is huge — the entire state of New Jersey, all boroughs of New York, two other counties in New York, eastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. 

“Our equipment does get damaged from time to time,” he admits, but notes the company doesn’t keep such statistics. “It’s not a pervasive problem. It’s an intermittent problem.” 

They might see issues primarily on construction sites, which often are open at night with no security. 

Large public gatherings — like those famously rowdy University of Wisconsin-Madison football games — also provide potential for vandalism. But Chuck Kerns, president of Bucky’s Portable Restrooms in Oregon, Wis., has been lucky. And while he has seen some vandalism — including knife cuts and pipe bombs — he says he’s only lost a few, maybe 10 tops, of his 1,100 restrooms in the past 40 years.

“We’ve been doing it so long that we’ve got a pretty good system down,” Kerns says, adding Bucky’s provides about 100 units for Badger games, and the biggest concern he might see is a unit being tipped over. However, Kerns says they start pumping units after the game, usually around 10 p.m., so they are empty; if they do get tipped over, he says, it’s not as much of a concern or a mess. They are picked up early the following morning. 

“We keep a pretty close eye on our inventory,” he says, noting that they have talked about using damage waivers, but haven’t made that decision yet. “We’re kind of weighing that out.” 

Portable restroom vandalism may be considered funny or minor to the culprits who inflict it. But not so to the operators who rely on restrooms to make their living. In 2009, lobbyists for the North Carolina Portable Toilet Group (formed in 1992) secured passage of HR 616 to increase penalties for damage to portable restrooms and pump trucks from a Class 2 to Class 1 misdemeanor.

“You need to make it easy for law enforcement. We gave law enforcement something to hang onto,” says Joe McClees, lobbyist for the NCPTG. “We specifically spelled out what would happen, and we’ve had very little vandalism since we passed it. 

“Vandalism has gone down in North Carolina and I have not had a complaint from the membership since.” 

Check out these products for your toughest cleaning and maintenance restroom needs:

How do you protect your portable restrooms from vandalism? Post a comment below.


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