Vandalism: Criminal, costly – creative?

Laura Lofgren

Some may characterize it as an art, but it’s an unnecessary headache for others

Vandalism and criminal mischief are common occurrences on the Kent State campus. Vandalism can range from minor pen marks on bathroom doors to large murals on the sides of buildings. It can be seen as an art form, or it can be viewed as unnecessary graffiti.

How’s it categorized?

There are many forms of vandalism under Ohio Law. Alice Ickes, who has been a crime prevention officer at Kent State for 27 years, said there are three main versions the officers deal with: criminal mischief, criminal damage and endangering and vandalism.

Criminal mischief is defined as an offense against property that includes damage, defacement and alteration.

“It is considered a misdemeanor,” said Rick O’Neill, a detective for the Kent State University Police Department.

Criminal damage and endangering is when a person removes or defaces a local protection sign that was put there for the protection of the people. For example, Ickes said someone taking down construction area tape endangers workers and citizens because they have no way of knowing they are in a work zone without the tape or a sign.

The highest form is vandalism itself. This is a severe case of criminal mischief when the defacement or alteration of property has caused significant harm to someone or something. If the case is intense enough, the charge is felony in the fourth degree, O’Neill said.

According to Ickes’ records, each year an average of 88.25 accounts of criminal mischief, 2.3 accounts of high-end vandalism and 153.25 accounts of criminal damage and endangering are reported.

If caught, municipal courts will handle each case individually. Depending on the severity of the action, one can get anything from a small fine to jail time.

O’Neill and Ickes agreed it is extremely hard to catch a perpetrator, and it’s rare when police do so. They said it’s hard to get enough evidence to convict someone, let alone arrest the criminal.

Cleaning it up

So, who cleans up the mess that is spray painted alongside of a residence hall?

Bob Misbrener, associate director of maintenance of Campus Environment and Operations, has a team for that.

The team carries everything from a portable pressure sprayer to a “myriad of chemicals” to clean up campus defacement.

And it’s not cheap. Each incident of vandalism can result in damages from $100 to $10,000, depending on the severity of each case. The price is not only for the replacement parts, but for the chemicals, too.

A few years ago, the walkway behind the Kent Hall Annex had extensive graffiti displayed on it. Misbrener said they used Elephant Snot, a highly powerful removal agent which costs about $20 per gallon, to remove the paint. A concrete sealer was then put on top of the now-clean wall, costing another $500.

Recently, Dix Stadium was vandalized with spray paint, costing the university about $7,000 in damages. A sign bearing the Kent State emblem was defaced with the words “A-K Rowdy!!” and “SUCKS” after a Kent State logo.

The environment is also taking a beating from the chemicals in spray paint used by graffiti artists.

“The chemicals can seep into the trees,” Ickes said. This, in turn, can affect the air students breathe.

Why do they do it?

There doesn’t seem to be one particular reason why one defaces public property.

Ickes and Misbrener said it is out of “immaturity.”

“It’s easy to frame someone,” Misbrener said, adding that putting the blame on someone else is easy and makes it hard to pinpoint the actual vandal.

Contact features correspondent Laura Lofgren at [email protected].