The eyes and ears of Castleton’s public safety officers helped play a crucial role in capturing a local car vandal over the October break. The vandal, a non-student whose name has not been released by the police, broke into several vehicles in the early morning hours of Oct. 5, gaining access to the cars by shattering their windows in an attempt to pocket any valuables lying inside.
Public safety officers noticed a suspicious vehicle on campus and recorded its license plate number earlier that evening.
Officers later heard unusually large “pop” noises from around campus and notified the Castleton town police, who then tracked down and arrested the vandal with the aide of the same license plate number.
“If it wasn’t for my officers, that person would have gone on to cause thousands of dollars more in damage,” Castleton Director of Public Safety Bob Godlewski said.
Godlweski said the vandal began a spree of break-ins that night at Finius T. Flubberbusters restaurant in Hampton, N.Y. He then headed east, hitting cars in Fair Haven before being detained in Castleton.
“I have to give huge kudos to my officers,” Godlewski said. “It tells me that they’re out doing their job.”
After obtaining a search warrant, local police seized nearly all of the items stolen from the back of the vandal’s car with hopes of returning them to their rightful owners.
The person in question has yet to be charged with a crime and was released from police custody. Since incidents occurred in both New York and Vermont, further investigation is necessary before prosecution can begin.
“There’s still some (stolen) property that needs to be identified before moving forward.” Castleton Police Chief Bruce Sherwin said. “We’re trying to put together a complete case.”
But not every victim was robbed that night.
Castleton freshman John Petrovitsis received a phone call from public safety shortly after 4 a.m. informing him that his black Volkswagen GTI had its passenger-side windows smashed out.
“I was too tired to process it,” Petrovitsis said, adding that nothing inside was stolen. “I took everything (valuable) out the night before. I didn’t want something like this to happen.”
“There was glass everywhere,” he said. “Even now, you can still hear glass grinding every time you move the seat forward.”
Petrovitsis, whose car was parked in the observatory lot directly behind the public safety building, said public safety officers treated him well, but he was a little frustrated that his car was vandalized so close to their building.
“If someone is ballsy enough to break in (to a car) that close to public safety, I guess it doesn’t really matter where I park,” he said.
Castleton junior Molly Fraher, who faced a similar issue with vandalism and thievery last year, sent her condolences to the students hit over the break.
“It’s a big pain in the ass,” Fraher said. “I feel horrible for the kids that had it happen.”
Fraher’s Honda Passport and three other vehicles were broken into and robbed last December. All four cars were parked n the “Africa” lot near Fraher’s off-campus house.
The thief, who remains anonymous, made off with a purse-full of credit cards and various other valuables — right in front of Fraher’s house.
“All of the (car) owners were in that house that night and we never heard any of it,” Fraher said. “That’s what scares me.”
Bob Godlewski acknowledged that problems of vandalism happen at every school and will likely never be fully preventable, but also pointed out that acts of vandalism have decreased by roughly fifty-percent since he took over public safety duties at Castleton.
In addition to several night-vision-equipped surveillance cameras now patrolling the “Africa” lot and elsewhere, Godlewski says there are plans to add even more cameras across campus. There are also times when as many as 10 public safety officers are patrolling campus at night, he said.
But even with increased security measures, Godlewski admits that offenders are still going to slip through the cracks at times.
Two days after police captured the Oct. 5 vandal, Castleton junior Melissa Pope’s Ipod accessories and clothes were taken from her car parked in the resident lot in front of North House.
“I got back from work and was inside the dorms for maybe 20 minutes before I went back out to my car and noticed my phone charger lying on the ground,” Pope said, adding that she always locked her car’s doors.
There was no evidence of a break-in to Pope’s car and the incident is considered unrelated to the events of Oct. 5.
“I just got it in June,” Pope said, referring to her 2001 Honda Civic. “I was pissed.”
Public safety is currently investigating the incident involving Pope’s vehicle.
“I wish I could say it’s never going to happen again, but I’m a realist,” Godlweski said. “(Vandals) are never going to do this sort of thing when we’re looking.”
One of the biggest problems facing campus, he said, was that students simply don’t speak up enough when problems occur, and that significant headway could be made in preventing similar occurrences if they did.
Godlewski originally hosted a regular “director’s lunch” for students to attend and voice their safety concerns. But when students failed to show up, he decided to scrap it. He is, however, willing to restart the program if students are interested.
“I’ve got an open door policy. If you have a problem come in and talk to Bob,” he said. “We’ve got 940 students on campus – why can’t we all work together?”
“If I’ve got more eyes out there telling me what’s going on, we’re all going to do a better job,” he said.