Kids, ages 7 to 11, accused of ransacking San Pedro daycare, causing thousands of dollars in damage

The scene at the World Tots L.A. daycare center in San Pedro last week was straight out of a teacher’s nightmare.Obscenities were scribbled in chalk on the walls. Ink toner was sprayed everywhere and into filing cabinets. The fire extinguishers were discharged....

Kids, ages 7 to 11, accused of ransacking San Pedro daycare, causing thousands of dollars in damage

The scene at the World Tots L.A. daycare center in San Pedro last week was straight out of a teacher’s nightmare.Obscenities were scribbled in chalk on the walls. Ink toner was sprayed everywhere and into filing cabinets. The fire extinguishers were discharged....

08 Mart 2017 Çarşamba 15:57
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Kids, ages 7 to 11, accused of ransacking San Pedro daycare, causing thousands of dollars in damage

The scene at the World Tots L.A. daycare center in San Pedro last week was straight out of a teacher’s nightmare.

Obscenities were scribbled in chalk on the walls. Ink toner was sprayed everywhere and into filing cabinets. The fire extinguishers were discharged. Furniture, open bottles of baby formula, broken mirror shards and diapers were strewn across the ground. The children’s toothbrushes were shoved into toilets. The snacks were raided and electronics had been stolen. Someone had even set a small fire inside the facility at 100 W. 5th St., said Chief Thomas Gazsi of the Los Angeles Port Police.

Damages to the property and repairs amounted to $30,000, he said.

“It was simply disturbing and quite malicious in nature,” Gazsi said.

But even more troubling for authorities was discovering that the alleged vandals were a group of school-age children.

Authorities are still investigating how the four boys and girl allegedly managed to enter the daycare center on Feb. 26. But, the chief said, it appears the destruction occurred “under the veil of darkness” and that the children had some knowledge of the facility.

“This wasn’t some random thing they decided to do,” Gazsi said.

After daycare staff discovered the break-in about 6:30 the next morning, they were forced to close their doors for about a week for repairs and environmental cleanup efforts to ensure it was safe for children.

Port police and detectives worked with facility staff and gathered evidence to help them identify the children, who were detained, Gazsi said. A large amount of the stolen items, which included clothing and electronics, were recovered, he said.

The children do not attend the facility, but live in the area, according to the chief. Three children are members of the same family, he said.

Police plan to present their case the Los Angeles County district attorney’s juvenile division. Gazsi said police are working with the juvenile division to provide some type of counseling to the children to prevent similar criminal acts.

“When you are looking at the world for dangers, you don’t think you should be watching out for 7-year-olds, you just don’t,” said Julie Wichmann Huerta, president of the YWCA Harbor Area and South Bay, which operates the nonprofit daycare facility.

The weeklong closure of the child development center was devastating to daycare staff and client families who work in the Port of Los Angeles, or live in surrounding cities, she said. The center serves children as young as 6 weeks old and as old as 5 years. A quarter of them are from low-income families.

The Port of Los Angeles, which leases the building to the YWCA, helped pay for the damage. Harbor Department employees worked on repairs so the facility could reopen its doors by 6:30 a.m. Monday.

A Go Fund Me account was created to help the center pay for the damage and repairs.

When the doors were opened Monday morning, children were greeted by officers and daycare staff. Most were unaware of what had occurred, but some noticed that their favorite blankets and toys were missing, Wichmann Huerta said.

The vandalism not only placed an additional financial burden on the center, but also rattled the staff.

Wichmann Huerta said they never expected children just two years older than the kids they care for could cause such much devastation.

“It’s hard to imagine what was going through their minds,” she said.

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veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA

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