Price of Dubuque vandalism extends beyond replacement costs - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Price of Dubuque vandalism extends beyond replacement costs

Dubuque police are looking for this young man, who they say vandalized Wahlert High School Dubuque police are looking for this young man, who they say vandalized Wahlert High School

Two incidents of vandalism this week in Dubuque lead to questions about the overall costs of criminal mischief.

Police continue to ask for the public's help in identifying a young man they say smashed some windows Tuesday night at Wahlert Catholic High School in Dubuque.

Cameras at the school captured the image of a young man, who police describe as white, with dark/short hair and a thin build, wearing an ADIDAS hooded sweatshirt and light-colored pants.

The Wahlert High School incident joins a string of other acts of vandalism this week in Dubuque. In the overnight hours between Tuesday and Wednesday, police also learned of several car windows throughout Dubuque that appeared to be shot by an air gun.

Dubuque Police Lieutenant Scott Baxter said the cost of vandalism goes far beyond simply replacing broken glass.

"It's actually pretty far reaching," Baxter said. "If you think about just the property damage itself, the insurance claims, how those insurance claims ultimately impact the premiums you and I pay, the tax dollars that are spent on us investigating it, prosecuting it, and maybe, ultimately, trying and prosecuting and incarcerating somebody."

He said the cost of annual vandalism in any one community could reach into the millions of dollars.

"And nationally, I'm sure, it's in the billions of dollars annually- the vandalism, criminal mischief cost," he said.

While vandalism is a hard crime to solve, as its perpetrators usually act during the night and at random, technology is helping win the battle.

At Wahlert High School, principal Ron Meyers said security cameras upgraded just this fall clearly tell the story of a young man who parked his car across the street from the school, walked through the parking lot with a baseball bat and toward some glass side doors. At that point, he was out of the camera's view.

"Obviously, windows were broken, and then we saw him vacate, this time instead of walking he was running back over to his car, got into his car and went on his merry way," Meyers said, adding he doesn't recognize the young man as a student.

The doors cost several hundred dollars to replace and the incident joins the string of broken car windows, mostly concentrated in Dubuque's North End.

"Believed to be an individual or individuals using some type of air gun to shoot out vehicle windows, which, on the average, can cost several hundred dollars to repair," Baxter said.

Baxter said police have no reason to believe the school incident and car vandalisms are tied together, but they're not ruling that out at this point.

Iowa code defines criminal mischief as any damage, defacing, alteration or destruction of property done by someone who has no right to do so. Beyond cars and windows, that list includes street signs, legal documents and even human remains.

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