A drunk crime, not a hate crime

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Students have been throwing bottles from the high-rise apartment Level on all four sides, including the one with the Islamic Center below. Photo courtesy of Alex Couturier.

In the past month, the Tempe Police Department has answered at least six reports of residents tossing bottles, eggs, cans and other objects off the balconies of high-rise housing complexes near Arizona State University — a situation mirroring the recent spat of University of Arizona students dropping beer bottles off their balconies at a new high-rise housing complex onto the street and the Tucson Islamic Center next door.

“Sometimes we can’t make an arrest because of lack of info. These incidents also may not necessarily be students,” said Tempe Police Public Information Officer Molly Enright. “It is dangerous because bottles falling from a high distance can cause fatalities or serious injuries. It’s a public safety concern.”

Since the fall semester started in August, there have been a number of reports of residents at Tucson’s Level — a new high-rise student housing complex across the street from the University of Arizona — throwing bottles from their balconies. The glass explodes onto the street or, in several cases, onto the Tucson Islamic Center.

“The students don’t comprehend how bad what they are doing actually is and the damage they could cause. It’s actually really stupid,” said Ezadeen Naji, an employee with the Tucson Islamic Center. “They could get evicted or even arrested. It is just a small number of students who make the rest look bad.”

Level is one of three new high-rise student housing complexes across the street from the UA campus on North Park Avenue and North Tyndall Avenue. None is affiliated with the UA.

Behind the Islamic Center’s parking lot, there is an area where children come to play, often barefoot, in the fake grass area.

“There have been a lot of bottles in the playground and parking lot area. There is fake grass there, though, so the glass gets stuck in it. Now, kids have to wear shoes to avoid injury. Luckily there has only been one injury from the glass and it was not serious,” Naji said.

Because the center is a place of religious worship, the idea of a hate crime comes up. Naji does not believe that the center was targeted, though. Students have had bottles thrown at them from the apartments while they were simply walking by.

Either way, Naji does not think that students should have to dodge bottles while walking near the area.

“Maybe we have been targeted, maybe not. I think it is just students being drunk,” Naji said.

Chris Widmer with the Tucson Police Department also said that these incidents do not appear to be hate crimes.

“We don’t have any evidence of a hate crime. There are four sides to the building, and one happens to be the Islamic Center,” he said.

Northern Arizona University students apparently haven’t caught on to the practice of heaving bottle off balconies, largely because there are few, if any, high-rise student housing complexes, said Flagstaff Police Sgt. Margaret Bentzen.

“Also, it is just too cold here. Students aren’t hanging out on balconies outside for them to be throwing bottles off of them,” Bentzen said.

Naji said a way to possibly solve the problem is to install a fence or a net to catch bottles and other debris falling off of balconies.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, City Councilman Steve Kozachik and members of the Islamic center agreed that the balconies should be turned into “Arizona rooms” — or enclosed porches — to prevent students from hurling things off of them.

Employees at Level Apartments declined to give any comments on the matter.

The Islamic Center has installed security cameras and after every incident it turns over the footage to the management at Level and the adjacent Hub and Next housing complexes. Several students in November were evicted based on the video evidence.

Taylor Thorne, a UA junior who lives in Level, said it is incredibly disrespectful and immature of students to throw anything off their balconies.

“I think it is really dangerous that college kids are actually doing this, and these bottles are landing on a place of worship. It’s really unfortunate that they are willingly putting other people at risk,” she said. “I think the Level apartment management should have done something about it more promptly because it seems to be an ongoing issue for a couple of weeks now.”

Thorne said that since the recent rash of events, Level management has taken a stronger stand and pledge to evict offenders. Thorne said she hopes the incidents stop and no more problems occur in the future.

Management has also distributed notes to the Hub, Next and Level warning residents of potential punishment for throwing items off balconies. According to the lease agreement, offenders face an immediate $1,000 fine and possible eviction, as well as the potential to be charged with a crime by Tucson Police.

Widmer said TPD does not have officers assigned to patrol the area around the three housing complexes; the complexes have their own security staff and TPD will respond when called upon, he said.

Leah Cresswell is a reporter at Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at leahcresswell@email.arizona.edu

 

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