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Saturday, January 18, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Police looking for Elmira vandals

Owner of Clock Tower building posts videos online showing trespassers on the roof of historic building; police receive other reports

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A business owner is seeking out those responsible for vandalizing her property, acts that have cost her some $15,000 in repairs over the past year.

Juliane Shantz, doctor of audiology at the Elmira Ear and Hearing Clinic, said that this has been an ongoing issue in the community. The latest incident was caught on surveillance footage, posted to social media, and viewed more than 10,000 times.

Shantz last week released on Facebook the video depicting three young males using a nearby pole to shimmy up to the roof of the Clock Tower Wellness Building. Two out of three were wearing bandanas in an attempt to obscure their identity.

“I’m very concerned about safety. If someone falls off, they could easily die,” said Shantz. “It’s so high, and it’s so dark when they go up there.”

The group bizarrely brought a rubber duck up to the top of the building. Debris was found thrown on the front yard near the sidewalk the next day. Shantz suspected that a dare may have been the motive.

They also shut off the air conditioning unit, damaged the rubber membrane roof and an antique, one-of-a-kind decorative finial at the top of the clock tower. The incident occurred at around 1 a.m.

Since releasing the video, two callers phoned in to the Ear and Hearing Clinic to identify those depicted in the video.

“I sent the footage over to the [EDSS]; I’m letting the principal and vice-principal try to identify them,” said Shantz. “Then I’m going to take those names back to the police.”

In a separate video posted to the comments section, one of the vandals is recorded taking note of the camera as the group was climbing down from the building, pausing to throw an object at it in an attempt to stop the filming. It did not work, and the cameras continued rolling.  

Shantz said that incidents like these led to the installation of a surveillance camera about a year ago. In past occurrences, she has also had the replace the AC unit, the roofing, ropes/flags, and make service calls, all of which has added up to thousands of dollars.

“This happened a few months back as well; we caught them on camera,” said Shantz. “There was a car in the video – police were able to identify who it was based on the license plate of the vehicle. So he actually went and talked to the parents of those kids; this is probably a different set of kids.

“The parents and the kids should be aware of the consequences of this.”

Their trail of mischief didn’t end there. Hartman Jewelers reported young adults climbing on the roof of six local businesses, including their own. The skylight was damaged in the aftermath, causing some $200 in damages.

Stephen Meyer of Hartman Jewelers said he caught a young man on the rooftop last summer; he did not get the police involved as there was no vandalism. The recent incident was the first where property damage occurred.

Meyer reported the incident to the police October 1, but had heard nothing back by early this week.

“It doesn’t seem like damage is the intent,” he noted. “This skylight was damaged by them taking a piece of aerial tower that was left on one of the buildings on our block. They were using it as a ladder.

“They took that, put it on my low level building. … It looks like they attempted to use it as a ladder, climbed up, it fell and then smashed the skylight. It doesn’t look like vandalism is the angle.”

Those involved with the incident could be charged with mischief under $5,000, a criminal offence that deals with damage to property and is classified as a “wilful and forbidden act in respect of certain property.” If the damage exceeds $5,000, it becomes a straight indictable offence.

Cst. Ashley Dietrich of the Waterloo Regional Police said that the liability if an injury were to occur could be twofold.

“The business could be liable if they’re not protecting themselves from somebody getting on top of the building,” said Dietrich.

“They could put up ‘No trespassing’ signs … or making it not accessible. Obviously, somehow, the kids are getting up there. So making it not accessible in some way, shape or form.”

Shantz said that they were considering putting barbed wire on the building in an attempt to deter any unwanted trespassers.

“Because they appear to be young people, knowing that, we can’t push it out on our social media in efforts to identify them because there are elements of our legal system where we can’t put out a young person’s image. Unless there are concerns for their safety,” said Dietrich.

While it was a similar incident, the vandalism does not appear to be related to the spate of graffiti that primarily took place at Elmira Home Hardware in mid-September.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact police at 519-570-9777 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

The video footage can be viewed on the Elmira Ear and Hearing Clinic’s Facebook Page.

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