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Vandals take aim at vehicles

October 19, 2006

Article written by: Helen Clarke and Jennie Oemig

Vehicle vandalism and small thefts have been on the rise on the UW-River Falls campus, leaving several students who park their vehicles in campus lots with hundreds of dollars in damage repairs.

In the past three weeks, there have been 15 separate reports of vandalism and theft in campus lots.

Last week, four students filed reports with Public Safety in regard to damages to their respective vehicles.

One vehicle parked in Ramer Lot had the rear window broken out and a speaker was stolen from inside.

The other three reports were from students who had parked their vehicles in O-Lot. CDs and a garage door opener were stolen from one vehicle, while a CD player and an amplifier and subwoofer with 12” speakers were stolen from another. One student reported damage to the dash of her vehicle as a result of her stereo faceplate being removed.

Public Safety Director Mark Kimball said the main thing the vandals are looking for are CDs and stereo equipment. He suggested that students should keep items of value out of sight to prevent them from being stolen.

Kimball said Public Safety is working closely with the River Falls Police Department to get a handle on the current rise in vandalism.

“They’re as frustrated as we are,” he said, adding that neither organization has any suspects in mind.

On Oct. 8 and 9, two vehicles parked in O-Lot were reported to have received damage. One of the vehicles had a side mirror torn off and another had a damaged dashboard, as well as a car stereo and CDs stolen from within.

In the same lot that weekend, another vehicle was found with the driver’s side door open. Contents of the glove compartment were removed, but nothing was damaged. There were no signs of forced entry.

Senior Al Stumph was signed up to live in South Fork Suites this semester, but he decided to live off-campus instead. Stumph said he would have had a vehicle parked in O-Lot if he were to have kept his room reservation in the residence hall.

“I’m glad I don’t live there with all the vandalism going on,” Stumph said. “I don’t need some asshole tearing the mirror off my car or smashing my windshield.”

Kimball said some of the vehicles that had items stolen from them appeared to have been left unlocked by the owner. He said he can’t stress enough how important it is that students lock their vehicles as a safety precaution.

Students take the risk of theft or vandalism when parking in campus lots.

“When [students] buy parking permits, there’s no guarantee,” he said. “That’s what they have insurance for.”

Several vehicles parked in N-Lot, K-Lot, W-Lot and E-Lot have also been reported damaged in the past few weeks.

At least one Public Safety officer is patrolling the campus at all times, and Kimball said two officers are working at a time for a good portion of the evening.

The lots on campus are equipped with surveillance cameras, but there is no way to ensure they will be scanning the right area of the lots at the right time, he said.

“It’s a black mark on the University,” Kimball said, referring to the amount of vandalism occurring in student parking lots. “I really feel bad.”

Besides damage to vehicles, UW-RF Facilities Director Manny Kenney has been aware of some destruction occurring on other campus property.

“Vandalism is always an issue,” he said.

With the recent campus beautification project, Kenney said some vandals are hindering the attempts to make the campus more appealing.

“We bought these nice stone trash containers and smoker’s urns to make our campus more attractive,” Kenney said. “Heavy as they are, we are still finding them tipped over.  It can be frustrating.”

In the past, Kenney said there has been damage to trees and plantings, and lawns have been rutted up around campus. There has also been graffiti damage to buildings, and other features and boards on picnic tables have been broken as well.

“I am not aware of major vandalism to our grounds so far this fall,” Kenney said. “That can change quickly.”