Safe Zone posters continue to vanish

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Police Department and administration are actively seeking the person or persons responsible for the theft of multiple Patricia A. Doyle Center for Gender and Sexuality signs.

“We ask that anyone who had a sign taken down file a UBIT [University Biased Incident Team] report with the university,” resident director of Wilgus Hall and Doyle Center staff Melissa Stoner said. “The biggest problem with the Safe Zone triangles being taken down is that it alienates the members of our [LBGTQ] community and makes them feel less safe.”

Reports of the missing Safe Zone triangles and Pride Week posters started shortly after students, staff and faculty returned to campus from spring break and have continued since. The signs have been taken from resident halls and academic buildings including Gardner, Warner, Engineering Hall and Ottensman. More than 40 Safe Zone triangles have been reported stolen, each sign valued at approximately $5.

“The meaning of the sign has a value that cannot be measured,” interim police chief Jason Williams said. “We have installed surveillance equipment and have set up various Safe Zone signs on campus with theft detection powder. We are hopeful that these two tools will assist us in identifying those responsible.”

The theft detection powder is an invisible powder that the police department applied to some of the Safe Zone triangles. If any person comes into contact with the powder it will stain their skin and clothing purple.

“The significance of [the theft detection powder] is that if you have purple hands, you’ve either touched or came into contact with this powder,” Williams said. “It takes awhile for [the purple stain] to dissipate until it can’t be seen anymore.”

Williams said he has personally been monitoring social media sites like Yik Yak and UW-Platteville Confessions due to the opinionated conversation postings about the current Safe Zone situation. Williams hopes the anonymous bloggers will give him a hint towards those responsible for the crime.

No suspects have been reported, but if the person or persons are found they will be held responsible according to Wisconsin Statute 943.20. The theft statute states that “whoever intentionally takes and carries away, uses, transfers, conceals, or retains possession of moveable property of another without the other’s consent and with intent to deprive the owner permanently of possession of such property. Theft of property under $2,500 is considered a Class A misdemeanor with a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed nine months, or both.

“If their motivation was based on bias then these are considered hate crimes,” Williams said.

“As far as our University Police Department viewpoint, we think this is reprehensible and we take this very seriously. We’re hoping that with the help of the campus community that we can figure out who is doing this and put an end to it.”

According to Williams, the incidents started to diminish after e-mails were sent out from Williams and Chancellor Dennis Shields on April 8.

“Removal of these signs and posters is a serious and important limitation on the safety of everyone on campus,” Shields wrote in his email to students, staff and faculty. “We are a campus that promotes tolerance which means that each of us, as members of the campus community, are responsible for helping to maintain a safe environment for everyone.”

Stoner and the Doyle Center staff ordered new signs to replace those that had been taken down and created buttons that people could pin to their clothes for UW-Platteville’s Pride Week, which took place April 11-15.

Pride Week, a week of scheduled events to promote awareness and celebrate the Doyle Center mission, started with a cookout kickoff and continued daily with a movie night, Safe Zone 2.0 training, LGBTQ+ mental health discussion and Wear the Rainbow Day. Refer to Chantel Seller’s Exponent article from April 14 for more information on the events of Pride Week.

Doyle Center signs have been disappearing long before the 2016 Pride Week events were advertised. In the Fall of 2015, similar Doyle Center signs were also reported missing. Please refer to Mackenna Moralez’s Exponent article from Dec. 10, 2015 for more information about the Fall 2015 series of theft events.

Shield’s email ended with the statement, “please participate in the effort to make our campus a safe space for everyone. Together, let’s make it clear that our campus culture values visibility, safety, support and critical discussion around all gender and sexual identities.”

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