Three non-ESU students vandalized rooms in SciTech and Stroud Hall on Sept. 6 and Sept. 7. Damages occurred in Stroud 202, SciTech 117, SciTech 222 and other public areas.
According to Chief William Parish, the vandalism started Friday evening and continued into Saturday.
The first report came from the custodial service on Saturday at 7:50 p.m. Officer Carlos Aussie responded immediately and began the investigation.
Walls were marked with graffiti, trash cans were knocked down and chemicals were poured onto the floor, but the majority of the damage was done to electronics.
The suspects overturned computers, broke the screens and removed keys from keyboards. The computer monitors also appeared to be poked with a pointed instrument similar to a screwdriver.
In SciTech 117, an unnamed liquid was poured onto a podium with audiovisual controls. Although the technology portion wasn’t on and the liquid was dried off, one part needs to be replaced.
Fortunately, the campus Information Technology (IT) department had reserve stock and was able to order new equipment immediately.
Parrish estimated the total loss to be an excess of $3,000, which is subject to change.
The damage done to electronics was easy to quantify, but facilities are still in the process of determining whether the other acts of vandalism led to permanent damage or were merely a matter of cleanup.
Parrish said the cost of closing the rooms will also be examined.
SciTech and Stroud Hall are routinely locked. Parrish stated the department is trying to determine how entrance was gained.
They received information that Stroud Hall was accessed by a student unwittingly, allowing the three suspects to use the bathroom.
“We need to caution students, human politeness and courtesy can be exploited,” said Parrish.
Campus police were able to identify the alleged perpetrators, who are all juveniles, through witnesses and camera coverage. They have no affiliation with the university.
“We’re moving forward with putting charges together for them. This is serious based on the dollar value,” said Parrish.
The department is currently working with the district attorney to establish the applicable charges.
“There’s a lot of crimes I’ve come across in almost 40 years of doing this that [are] unexplainable,” said Parrish. “Somehow, the thrill of being in an environment where you’re not supposed to generates some sort of reaction.”
“I’m sure if you talk to them, they don’t know why…they just did it,” he continued.
The vandalism had no apparent hate crime motivation, but the graffiti included the words, “f**k you” and “dirty b*****s.”
One professor who teaches in SciTech believed the language might have targeted her because she’s the only female faculty member in the area.
Despite her concerns, the police were able to determine the graffiti occurred in a random place and used random profanity.
Campus police do have forensic evidence, but Parrish explained that the video footage is the biggest key because it can be used to receive admissions from the suspects.
Campus police have the same authority, responsibilities and jurisdiction as any municipal police department.
Due to staffing levels, officers can’t specialize in certain areas, and some cases may require assistance from the state police.
In this case, campus police were able to use their own video, locate witnesses, conduct the investigation and process photographic scenes. They’re still gathering information and developing a timeline of events.
However, they did contact community organizations to help identify the suspects.
While acts of vandalism have occurred in the past, Parrish said none of them approached the dollar value of this incident.
He confirmed that safety measures are slowly being refined across campus.
For example, students used to have liberal access to SciTech, which was convenient for those who needed to complete projects or assignments during nontraditional hours.
Parrish stated there was no need for every student to have 24-hour access all the time. Before the fall semester started, access was restricted through the vice president’s office.
After a certain hour, students now have to call campus police to enter SciTech, a change Parrish admitted increases their workload.
“But we’re willing to accept some of that additional work…in order to make sure that building’s safe,” he said.
Parrish also shared that a new server and software for the campus camera system is in the works.
The software will take advantage of analytics, which allows the camera to send proactive alerts in certain areas.
If motion is detected in an area that’s supposed to be locked and secured, officers will be notified via text.
Reactively, the new program will allow campus police to perform characteristic searches across cameras. The search can be based on the color of a shirt or jacket, enabling officers to move more efficiently and establish a resolution faster.
When discussing how students can support campus safety, Parrish emphasized the importance of a “security mindset.”
“You need to be thinking about the general population,” said Parrish. “We need to think about everyone else we inadvertently make vulnerable by not following the rule to the letter.”
All of the vandalized rooms are functioning and open to students.
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