Vandalism at Terrace Circle threatens a fine to the residents of the Hillside and Terrace apartments.
Over the course of the past year the gate at UMBC apartment complex that blocks off Terrace Circle has been destroyed three times. The destruction of the card reader at the gate led UMBC Residential Life to threaten a seven dollar fine to all residents of Terrace and Hillside apartments if the perpetrator is not found. Residential Life believes that the residents of Hillside or Terrace are responsible for the vandalism. This has sparked outrage among the residents. The crimes are unusual for the area, which is not a common place for vandalism.
The gate was put up after the renovations of Hillside and Terrace because the road is the only route that emergency vehicles can take to get close to the apartments. Before the renovations the roads were wide enough for multiple cars to fit on the lane, and students would use that road to unload supplies to their apartments. Now the roads are only wide enough to fit one car, and if students tried to unload supplies then the lane would be blocked. The gate has been broken three times since September.
“Those are not University roads, a lot of students think those are access roads, but they are actually emergency vehicle roads. Their intent is to ease any emergency vehicles in reaching the apartments. Students who are parking on that road currently are actually putting other students at risk,” said Doug Copeland, Hillside Community Director.
The cost for fixing the gate is 4000 dollars and comes mostly from the card reader that opens the gate which was pulled out of the ground in mid April. In the prior instances the card reader was not ripped out of the ground, so the costs of fixing the gate were not as high. Also in those earlier instances Residential Life has their own set of workers who could repair the wooden gate. When the card reader breaks, the University has to call in outside contractors to fix it.
“The gate arm is a special product that I have to order, and it takes time to get here. The controller costs over 4000 dollars and I also have to order it. Then I have to have someone install it because that is not a product that we normally deal with,” said Roger Becks, Assistant Director of Residential Life.
The University is considering several methods to try to combat the continuing vandalism. First they are considering replacing the wood arm with a metallic arm to prevent potential vandals from ripping the arm out of the gate. Also the community directors have sent out emails to all of the residents of the Hillside and Terrace Apartments warning about potential fines for the whole community if the vandals are not caught. Students in the past have helped Reslife identify the culprits in past instances of trash being dumped near the apartments. They hope students will once again help identify the vandals.
“I had one student email me and say somebody left their trash out and they took it for them. It was awesome that they took that student’s trash out and I thanked him for that and followed up on that student,” said Shivany Trujillo, Terrace and West Hill Community Director.
Trujillo and Copeland believe that a stronger presence from the UMBC Campus Police in the apartment complex would help lower the chances of continued vandalism. Deputy Chief of the UMBC Campus Police Paul Dillon agrees that people would not harm the gate with an officer stationed there, but he says it is not feasible to keep someone stationed there at all times.
“That area is part of our normal patrol sector, but driving by and checking on the location has minimal effect, if we had to run an operation for that it would be resource intensive. You would have to put in surveillance and watch it for two straight weeks. I am not going to put a cop out there for 24 hours,” said Dillon.
If the vandal is caught and convicted by the UMBC judicial program then they could face both criminal penalties and University penalties. If the vandal is not a student they could be charged criminally with malicious destruction of property which is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of three years in prison and a fine of 2500 dollars if the damage exceeds 500 dollars.
However if the vandal is a student they might not be criminally charged. Instead they will be referred to the student judicial program. If found guilty, the student would have a one on one conversation with a judicial program worker to discuss the charges and either take responsibility or move forward to a student hearing board, said Lauren Mauriello, Assistant Director of Resident Student Conduct.
If a student is found responsible they could face four possible sanctions including a verbal and written reprimands, disciplinary probation, disciplinary suspension or expulsion. Also the student could be responsible for paying for the damages. The goal of the judicial program is to be a deterrent, but also to educate the students about the damages.
“Every case is different, so sanctions and conditions are always specific to that case. Generally in this case we would be looking at probation for a period of time for causing significant damage to the University and looking at a form of restitution to the University, either by paying the cost or community service because the community was impacted,” said Mauriello.
Residents of Hillside and Terrace have sent their community directors a horde of emails asking how they can be fined seven dollars for a crime they had nothing to do with. Also there has been some outrage at the email sent that residents read as threatening a fine for students if they do not give up information about the vandalism.
“I do not think it is right to fine everyone in the community. Honestly the gate should just be removed entirely. I would make more sense if if students could use it for moving in and out of campus,” Junior and Terrace resident Andrew Ide said.
With only two weeks left in the semester, time is running out for the perpetrator to be caught, and save the residents of Hillside and Terrace from the fine.