Pranks no fun for Kent police

Douglas M. Kafury

Sometimes students break the law to have a little fun, but they’re still breaking the law.

Police Lt. Michelle Lee has been with the Kent City Police Department for 19 years, and she said she has seen numerous types of crimes that people may think are petty.

One of the more common offenses is stealing street signs.

Lee said it is an inconvenience when street location signs are stolen, but when stop or yield signs are stolen, there is a big problem.

“Those are the ones that can cause accidents,” she said.

Lee said most of the citations issued for the possession of street signs stems from officers being called to residences for other reasons. That was the case with sophomore business management major Jeff McKain.

McKain said there were street signs hanging on the walls in his apartment when police arrived to check on a disturbance outside. The police spotted the signs, took them and cited McKain with receiving stolen property.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal to have street signs in the house,” McKain said. “I didn’t feel like I did anything against the law.”

Police Lt. Robert Nation, of the Kent State University police department, said those same types of offenses happen around campus.

He said people steal many parking and instructional signs.

“It may be some sort of a trophy for some, but we may see this activity as a quality of life issue or criminal issue from a public safety standpoint,” Nation said.

Another one of the more popular mischievous activities is setting couches or Dumpsters on fire, Lee said.

She said a lot of these types of crimes happen where there is a student-based population. People turn this into a sort of game to see how long it takes the fire department to get to the fire and extinguish it.

One of the main reasons why people do this is because people think it is a victimless crime. However, these fires can cause damage to property and nearby vehicles and can also take away valuable human resources.

“It drains police and fire services from other areas,” Lee said.

Even though no one may be around to see who caused the fire, apartment complexes often have surveillance cameras that see the action.

“Arsons we catch by camera or video,” Lee said. “We then review the tape and look to see if we can pick someone out.”

Nation, who has been with the department for nearly 30 years, said he has seen plenty of unusual pranks pulled in the residence halls, such as super gluing door locks, spraying fire extinguishers under doors and setting off fireworks inside the residence halls.

Setting off fire alarms is another prank that happens often in the residence halls. Not only is it illegal, it’s also dangerous.

The crime is inducing panic, and people can often be injured in the rush to leave the building, Nation said.

“It may seem as though it’s a prank, but it could have serious consequences,” Nation said.

Contact public affairs reporter Douglas M. Kafury at [email protected]