Written by Lauren Simmons // Graphic by Ben Evans
Students voiced frustrations after their vehicles were broken into and the owners were not contacted by Public Safety or the Searcy Police Department.
Public Safety reported on Aug. 31 at 8:27 a.m. in a school-wide email that student vehicles on the east side of campus near the Ganus Athletic Complex had been broken into in the early hours of the morning.
According to security footage in the area, four individuals were seen around 3 a.m. exiting a vehicle parked along East Park Avenue. The individuals searched for unlocked vehicles in the parking lot and smashed the windows of locked cars. The search for valuables in student vehicles lasted for approximately 40 minutes, according to Director of Public Safety Craig Russell.
Russell said the midnight patrol officer found broken glass in the parking lot around 4:30 a.m. and called a fellow officer to the scene. They found other cars in the area with doors open and windows broken, but no sounds from car alarms were reported. The two officers called the Searcy Police Department shortly after and worked with the police to start the search for the offenders.
In the first interview with The Bison, Russell said the students whose cars were broken into were called around 6:30 a.m. by the midnight dispatch officer on duty at the time. He said Public Safety found 16 damaged vehicles and contacted every owner but one, whose car had temporary license plates and was not registered with Public Safety.
However, The Bison interviewed nine students affected, and all nine said Public Safety did not contact them at any point to inform them of the damage. Sophomore Noah Hailaeb, one of the victims of the crime, said he heard the news of the break-ins through the school-wide email, but he was disappointed by the lack of effort and communication from Public Safety informing him about his car.
Hailaeb said he was in the parking lot around 3:30 p.m. with his friends when he saw the damage to other cars. He helped other students clean up the glass in their cars before his friends told him that his car had been broken into as well.
“I was pretty furious of how everything was dealt [with],” Hailaeb said. “How Harding responded to a kind of deal, um, the lack of it, um, and just checking up on us. They informed us in the beginning in the morning [in the email], which was pretty good. … But I think they should have done a better job on telling us how many cars were involved.”
Freshman Ethan Noble similarly found his car with a broken window and was not contacted by Public Safety. He said he was informed by his friend later that afternoon that his car was damaged. Noble said his first thought was to check and make sure nothing from his car was stolen.
“That was my first [thought],” Noble said. “But then when I found nothing was stolen or nothing was touched, I was just kind of, you know, I was more like, ‘Why is public safety not here trying to help?’ And yeah, they never reached out to me even after the fact.”
In the second interview with The Bison, Russell said he was given a list of 12 names of students whose cars were damaged at 8 a.m. Aug. 31, and he believed they had been contacted. In an email sent after the interview, Russell clarified miscommunications between Public Safety and the Searcy Police Department.
“With multiple Searcy Police Officers and detectives, and multiple Public Safety Officers and dispatchers all working on this case simultaneously beginning in the early morning hours of August 31, apparently there was some confusion about who contacted which students, and when that contact was made,” Russell said.
Russell said actions are being taken to improve the over 600 security cameras on campus. Kevin Davis, assistant director of Public Safety, traveled with Russell to the 2023 Global Security Exchange Conference in Dallas, Texas, last week to explore the advanced security camera systems available.
“There isn’t just one person or one office that keeps this community safe,” Russell said. “It’s all of us working together. … So take care of each other. And part of that is if you see something that doesn’t look right, don’t just let it go, say something.”