Vandalism costing UA students a fortune

By Shelly Rodgers

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Campus vandalism usually begins as a harmless prank or practical joke, but ends up costing students money and depriving them of the school's benefits, said one UA insurance officer.

Alan Lee, chief insurance officer for Risk Management, said more than $1 million of UA property is damaged, destroyed or stolen each year.

Vandalism accounts for about $100,000 of that bill, he said.

Sgt. Brian Seastone of the UAPD said 254 reports of vandalism were filed last year. Of those reports, he says, very few vandals were caught.

"They have to be caught in the act or by an eye witness," Seastone said.

Vandalism diminishes available services to students, Lee said.

"Depriving other people of the benefits that the UA has to offer is unjustifiable," he said.

On July 4, students could not use computers in two lab sites because vandals sprayed the contents of a fire extinguisher over the computers and printers, ruining the equipment, said Teresa Koslanovich, a system support analyst for CCIT.

It cost more than $7,000 to replace the 40 computers in the Apache-Santa Cruz and Harshbarger computer labs.

"When we experience vandalism, it hurts our clients the students," she said.

During the month-long cleanup, about 12,000 students were rerouted to other lab sites on campus, Koslanovich said.

Consequently, students stood in longer lines for a computer and there were a lot of network problems because of the overload, she said.

More recently, in-line skaters vandalized Centennial Hall and the UA's Museum of Art, jumping on railings and pulling them loose, Lee said.

Even though the total bill for the damage is estimated at more than $2,000, Lee said there are secondary problems involved.

"The railing is there for safety purposes for handicapped people and elderly people who visit the UA," he said. "If the railings are loose or missing, we put other people at risk."

Graffiti is also common, said Chuck Raetzman, assistant director of Facilities Management.

He said graffiti vandals use building walls as public billboards to display their messages.

"The quicker you make it go away, the sooner you keep their words from putting thoughts in other people's minds," he said.

This is especially true for gang messages, Lee said. "We don't want our buildings and property to become gang turf."

Although there is no real pattern, Raetzman said, graffiti is most common during protests and after football games.

The Administration Building becomes a billboard for protesters and street signs and barricades are the target of disgruntled Wildcat fans, he said.

Behind the act of vandalism is a psychological and emotional reason, said Dr. Hal Crawford, staff psychiatrist for UA's Student Health Services.

"A person feels some sort of power or esteem by vandalizing," he said.

The Old Main fountain was vandalized last year when vandals dumped caustic debris into the water, said John Adams, former assistant director for Maintenance Services.

"It was a major ordeal draining the fountain and hauling the water off as hazardous waste," he said. "People just don't fully understand the impact of their actions."

Mike Boston, grounds assistant supervisor, said, "I can't imagine any other reason why someone would do this except to be funny."

The vandal who set fire to the Santa Rita experimental range last year is still at large, he said.

According to Lee, that incident cost the UA more than $3,000.

More recently, vandals left an emergency shower running, flooding floors in the Gould-Simpson Building and costing the UA up to $20,000, he said. Several professors lost years' worth of scientific data in the flood, Lee said.

In the Neurobiology Department, the flood destroyed electron microscopic data stored in a file cabinet when water broke through a ceiling. Two other studies, valued between $10,000 to $12,000, were ruined and may take up to six months to reproduce. The vandals are still at large, Seastone said.

Even when vandals are caught, he said, the crime is usually a misdemeanor.

Lee said vandals who are caught will have to pay for their crime.

"If the person is caught we will look for restitution," he says. "We will get a court judgment against them to get the money."

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