UAPD investigating string of arsons
Robert Alcaraz / Arizona Daily Wildcat
A burned carpet left over from a couch set on fire in Pueblo de la Cienega on Nov. 14.
The University of Arizona Police Department and Residence Life are working together to end a string of fires that have occurred at the Pueblo de la Cienega residence hall beginning Oct. 20.
Four incidents have occurred so far, the most recent being a couch that was lit on fire in a communal lounge at 1:30 a.m. Monday. Similarly, at 3:29 a.m. on Oct. 26, a sprinkler was activated by fire and smoke rising from a different burning couch in another room. A smoking microwave was noticed at 11:11 a.m. on Oct. 20, and the fourth incident has not been disclosed by UAPD. At least two of the incidents have been officially labeled as arson, according to reports.
Both parties have collaborated with the Tucson Fire Department to ensure students’ safety during the ongoing investigation.
“We want to get to the bottom of this,” said Dana Robbins-Murray, assistant director of marketing for Residence Life. “We want to figure this out, but we want to ensure safety for our students, so we’re doing a lot of different things.”
Pueblo de la Cienega, which houses 238 people, currently has staff supervising the front desk at all hours, RAs and UAPD patrolling halls more frequently and communal areas locked down at nighttime, she added.
“We’re trying to be more diligent in creating more people walking through the halls,” Robbins-Murray said. “More manpower to be a presence in the halls, just to have a presence so whoever’s doing this may be deterred.”
She added that following Monday’s occurrence parents of hall residents were notified and that they feel comfortable with the newly-implemented polices.
Due to the on-going nature of the investigation, UAPD is limited in what information can be disclosed, but Joe Bermudez, a UAPD crime prevention officer, said nothing in the investigation leads them to believe these acts are related or premeditated.
“I don’t know if these are related,” Bermudez said. “Hopefully the investigation will answer some of these questions for us.”
While some students living hin the hall said they don’t feel unsafe, others are disgruntled about the lack of communication from departments dealing with the issue.
“I feel very annoyed,” said Matt Frey, a journalism junior and former Summer Wildcat reporter. “We’re frustrated that we haven’t seen a lot of information from Residence Life or the police or anything like that … We’re obviously frustrated that we have to evacuate at 1:30 or 3 in the morning.”
During Monday’s fire alarm, Frey said residents of the dorm were told to wait in Posada San Pedro residence hall next door, adding that it’s hard not to link the events together.
“Everyone is orderly,” said Robert Upchurch, a film and television freshman. “I never feel endangered, but it kind of makes me nervous that someone sets stuff on fire.”
Upchurch said he believes the fires are related, noticing an increase in severity, adding that the incidents have become more “ballsy.”
“It’s a rude awakening having to wake up at 1:30 and go outside in the cold,” said Derek Bowerman, a chemical engineering freshman. Bowerman said whoever is behind the incidents is likely doing so to attract attention.
Bermudez and Robbins-Murray said since the investigation remains ongoing, they’re relying on students to report any suspicious activities.
“Even the littlest things, UAPD wants to know because sometimes they say the little things can help lead to cracking it,” Robbins-Murray said.
Bermudez added if anyone notices suspicious behavior, they can report it anonymously through the UAPD Hotline at (520) 626-0066.
“We’re working with UAPD since it’s a serious investigation,” Robbins-Murray said. “Our first priority is the safety of our students.”