(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University Campus Police continue to investigate brick thefts that have plagued the walkways around the DeGorgio Campus Center.
At the end of the fall 2018 semester it came to the attention of the Campus Police that bricks were being taken from the Scholars Walk and the Campus Green.
Since the first report was filed, eight people have been turned over to the Dean of Students Office for academic misconduct and five bricks have been recovered.
“We understand it’s sort of a foolish act,” said Lt. Charles Yearta, with Campus Police. “It’s not anything that we as the police necessarily want to arrest somebody for, but we need the behavior to stop.”
According to Yearta, Campus Police has received a lot of help from faculty, staff and students in identifying people involved in the brick thefts and returning some of the stolen property.
Winthrop senior Christine Shannon said she thought it was ridiculous when she first heard about the thefts.
“I don’t even know why people would think of taking bricks because they are such an ordinary thing,” said Shannon. “I don’t understand why they would find humor or satisfaction in taking our university’s bricks.”
Yearta said police are working to educate students on the harmfulness of the crime. He said missing bricks not only pose a safety hazard for people walking across campus, but they also raise financial concerns.
“In the end, this is just hurting students, faculty and staff, because what ends up happening is, as we replace these bricks, that costs money from the general budget,” said Yearta. “Then that money from the general budget is being used replacing bricks, where it could be used to upkeep other areas.”
Yearta said with the university paying money to replace bricks on campus, the cost of tuition could increase.
“It’s costing the students money, i.e. in tuition and fees to replace these bricks, so they’re paying for their own damage by us replacing it,” he said. “We don’t want that. Your tuition and fees can go to a lot better things than bricks getting taken.”
Dr. Ty Miller, a criminology professor at Winthrop, said the broken window theory may apply to this situation.
This theory states that when places look like they are in a state of disrepair, criminals will believe the area is not monitored well by law enforcement and crime levels could rise.
“If these bricks keep being removed and things around Winthrop look like they’re in disarray, it could actually be criminogenic,” said Miller.
“People will see it as an area that people don’t care about, areas that aren’t being patrolled or aren’t being watched and they might see it as (an) area where they can either victimize the campus or other people.”
President Dan Mahony sent an email to the campus community Feb. 11, advising students to keep a lookout for brick thieves and asking those who stole bricks to return them. He promised students returning the bricks would not be charged.
“I think the way President Mahony approached it…is probably the best way of doing it,” said Miller. “Just put them back and we won’t do anything to you, but what could potentially help is getting word out there on what the potential punishment is.”
According to Patricia Riley, assistant director for Student Organizations and Leadership, the Campus Center League held a brick craft night where students were given left over bricks donated from facilities to paint and decorate.
The event drew over 30 students and there is a possibility that a similar craft night will take place closer to graduation.
Yearta said events like these are good ways to keep students involved and give them a memento from their time at Winthrop that does not require vandalizing campus walkways.
Shannon said she believes students may just trying to be funny.
“I think either people are doing it as a joke somehow, like they find humor in it, or I don’t think people would desperately need bricks that bad for something, so I think it’s mainly for humor,” said Shannon.
Additionally, a number of social media have been poking fun at the situation, creating memes and using the hashtag #winthropbricks.
“I think the biggest message we want to get out there now is it looks like a fun idea,” said Yearta. “It kind of goes along with this mob mentality…but in the end it is only hurting themselves.”