By Justin Toney
Vandalism is not a new thing to the Mary Washington campus, but the recent string of defecations in public space may surprise students and staff.
Since the Friday of finals week last year, police and housekeeping staff from the University have found human feces, urine, and other forms of vandalism in both the north and south elevators of the parking garage.
UMW Police Chief James Snipes said there are suspects under investigation, but he does not believe that Mary Washington students are responsible.
“Because of a few incidents in the parking deck, we have a reason to believe this could be a form of retribution,” Snipes said.
Just after midnight on Dec. 14, Officer Joe Gagliardi discovered the first of the feces in the south elevator with a tube of lip balm protruding from the droppings. That same evening he found urine in the north elevator of the parking garage.
“In police work, one incident is an isolated occurrence,” Gagliardi said. “You do, however, look for trends. Multiple incidents in one location did make me increase my patrol of the area.”
Gagliardi passed on the news of the events to those working on day shift. He and his Royce Union folding bicycle rode the south elevator to work in the evenings after students had left for break, discovering five more acts of vandalism.
According to Melissa Myers, facilities work order control manager, each case of human excrement that Housekeeping must dispose of has a flat-rate fee of $50 issued to whomever is found responsible.
Between Dec. 16 and Jan. 13 a trashcan had been damaged in the parking garage; a drawing of a penis appeared on the south elevator door sometime during; three more piles of feces were found in both north and south elevators.
Gagliardi would not share his reaction to the events, and instead quoted Sgt. Friday from the film “Dagnet” when he responded with “Just the facts, mum.”
Chief Snipes gave his brief reaction to the defecations.
“It was infantile of someone to do that,” Snipes said.
Herb Patterson, manager of Housekeeping Services, began patrolling the area in the morning after he and most of the Facility Services staff returned Jan. 2.
“It initially started when all the students here were gone over break, so my guess is that it was some kids from town,” Patterson said.
Since beginning his morning patrol, Patterson estimates that he discovered at least three instances of defecation in the elevators. Officer Gagliardi reported two of the excrement sightings to him.
Patterson said that he found a fifth deposit, and disposed of it with a snow shovel before anyone could report it.
This incident is not on official police record.
“It’s not one of those things you want to do,” Patterson said, “but it’s something that has to be done, and I’d rather take care of it myself than call my staff and have them do it.”
Although Chief Snipes prefers that incidents be reported to police, he said that Patterson did not cause a problem by not reporting the incident.
Neither Snipes nor Gagliardi could go into detail about the incidents because there are suspects under investigation..
Snipes expressed that these incidents could have been prevented if the University had security cameras installed in the parking deck.
“It would discourage that sort of activity and would enable us to monitor other activities,” Snipes said.
According to Snipes, the University considered purchasing and mounting cameras in the parking garage upon its completion in the summer of 2006, but an administrative decision was made to leave cameras out.
Such decisions ultimately fall to the University’s executive vice president. Acting President and Executive Vice President Rick Hurley was not available for comment.
Vice President of Business and Finance Rick Pearce spoke in his stead.
“The University is considering a variety of security measures from cameras to more security personnel. A balanced, consistent, campus-wide approach that also compliments the City’s resources is being developed,” Pearce said.
Those responsible may face multiple charges of vandalism with penalties of up to $2500 and 12 months in jail. The University will charge said person(s) $50 for each incident of defecation for which they are responsible.
No monetary charges will be made until someone is shown responsible for their excrement.