Recent vandalism has FMPD's attention

Chief says recent criminal mischief carries a financial toll


FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Police Department is looking for help in solving a recent string of vandalism incidents around the community, most involving a pellet or BB-gun.
Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff said individually the crimes are misdemeanors, but collectively, the crimes are an incredible burden on the community.
“Vandalism has always been a teenage prank-type thing, but when it’s to this degree and magnitude and the amount of damage that’s occurred…how can people be so callous and unconcerned,” Rohloff said.
“And these are just random victims. You’re costing people a lot of money and this has been going on for two weeks. No care, no thought, no conscience.”
Since May 2, there have been 27 incidents of vandalism in the community and Rohloff said only three of them don’t involve a vehicle window or building window being damaged.
Seven of 27 have been on Avenue L along the Business 61 corridor, including Sub Arena, and four have been along the same corridor on Avenue H. Four others have been in the business district of Avenue G.
Rohloff said he thinks the crimes are being done by younger adults or youth and are being carried out after dark when less people are walking on streets or traveling around the community.
He said not all of them are windows, but most of them are.
“A lot of these are BBs or pellets so somebody, its some miscreant, driving around with a pellet gun popping stuff,” he said.
“It hits (the window) and then creates a little pit and then eventually it cracks and breaks,” he said.
“I feel really bad. These are people I know. This is largely affecting a community. A storefront window is thousands of dollars, a vehicle window is hundreds. The shear magnitude of this is a significant loss to a community.”
He said the problem is identifying a suspect. He said chances are considering the shear amount and the recency of the events, it’s probably the same person. But proving the cases is a difficult task and it would take some solid observations, maybe a license plate from someone who hears something and calls right away will lead to a break in the case.
“Can you prove them all? No, but that one we need to aggressively pursue that person under the assumption, and the community can assume that person’s responsible.”
He said restitution would be limited and the degree of the damage caused limits the degree of criminal mischief that can be charged.
He said the recent string includes businesses, vehicles, and homes. He said some have been discovered by officers and others have been called in days later by owners.
Rohloff said as always, people need to be on the lookout or checking surveillance cameras as soon as they see activity or find damage.
He said police are being viligant during late evenings focusing on drivers under the influence, so if there is a reason to pull a vehicle over, they are doing that.
“Then we get our nose in the window for drunk drivers, looking for drugs, any pretext for pulling a driver over ,we’re going to do it. Tolerances at night are lower because our dog is out working and we’re like what are you doing out at 3 in the morning?  But if we’re not finding anything, it’s difficult for us to make a case,” he said.
“If we knew within an hour of something happening, there’s a good chance someone might have seen something or remembered it. My guess is these are happening in the evening, night time with kids in a car. That’s our profile. It’s so random it’s not like it’s a vendetta against you or me. There’s nothing personal about it.”
Tony Menke, of Clear Vision, said his building was hit sometime between 1 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Monday.
He agrees that it's kids doing vandalism, but he said back in the day that kids had some kind of conscience about the vandalism and society would help fix the problem.
The Clear Vision building took a pellet through the first pane of glass but it didn't puncture the second inside pane. He said the first pain will cost at least $1,000 to fix.

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