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Vandals Trash Burke Centre VRE Station

Repairs expected to cost over $80,000.

<bt>Sometime between a police patrol on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 11 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 6, at 6 a.m., vandals attacked the Burke Centre Virginia Railway Express (VRE) station, causing over $80,000 worth of damage.

According to a Fairfax County Police report, a police officer on routine patrol discovered extensive vandalism at the train station and in the adjacent commuter parking lot. The damage included shattered glass from partitions and vending machines, busted lighting fixtures and spray-painting on parked cars and a vending machine.

"They basically broke everything they could break," said Mark Roeber, VRE spokesperson.

The most expensive damages, however, came from the ticket machines. The vandals smashed all three of the computerized touch screens with a blunt object, said the report.

By Monday, Nov. 7, VRE had replaced the broken lighting fixtures, repainted the walls with graffiti on them, and are working on the announcement system, said Roeber.

VRE is still trying to determine whether the machines' internal computers are irreparably damaged, said Roeber. For the time being, the exteriors of the machines will be repaired. To buy or validate tickets, he said, VRE riders should contact the train conductor or do so at their destination station until the machines are fixed.

"Hopefully, not all the machines are down, but we clearly have a day or two to work this through," said Roeber.

ACCORDING TO Roeber, the vandals spray-painted the words "MS-13" on cars and a vending machine. However, Fairfax County Police spokesperson Bud Walker said that detectives do not believe the incident to be gang-related.

VRE and local governments have been discussing installing securing cameras at the station, said Roeber.

It is difficult to plan for security cameras, since they require a person to monitor them, said Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock). With the new parking garage being built next to the station, Bulova's office will explore the possibility of installing the security cameras as part of the construction process.

Most troubling to VRE and local officials, however, is the extent of the damage. The nearby Burke Centre neighborhood has occasional isolated acts of vandalism, but nothing particularly large, said Jack Liszka, facilities and resources administrator at the Burke Centre Conservancy.

"We've had no problems with people breaking anything up at this point," he said.

"This is unusual, for vandalism like this to have occurred," said Bulova. "We'll have smaller incidents — spray-painting a car, bashing in a mailbox — but this is pretty large-scale for the West Springfield area."

As with the surrounding neighborhoods, vandalism experienced at the VRE stations has been smaller-scale and localized, said Roeber: a broken fixture here, graffiti on an elevator there.

"In this case, it was everything," he said. "Everything in the periphery of the Burke lot was vandalized. It was utter chaos."

But the extent of the damage might help solve the crime, said Walker.

"We're hoping that, given the amount of the damage, that the people who perpetrated it were there for enough time and made enough noise that someone would have seen them," he said.

Bulova related an recent incident involving extensive graffiti in the Briarwood community of Annandale. Police caught the perpetrators, she said.

"I hope the Burke Centre case is resolved as quickly," she said.

Police are asking the community's help in apprehending the vandals. Anyone with information regarding the crime is asked to call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or the Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.