By Ryan Lengerich
On an evening in Tucumcari, pedestrians might notice the neon lights. But recently, on any afternoon a person would be more likely to notice broken windows.
A recent vandalism string of busted windows at local businesses and shattered vehicle glass has left police frustrated and businesses feeling helpless.
Three separate reports were filed with Tucumcari police Tuesday involving two businesses and one car window being shot out. Each report indicated a ball bearing was fired, breaking the windows. A report was filed Thursday when four holes punctured a glass door at an inactive bank building on Main Street.
Tucumcari Police Chief Dennis Townsend estimated more than 20 reports have been filed in the past month concerning similar incidents. The ball bearings could have been shot with a “wrist rocket,” a sling shot device Townsend said can be purchased at any sporting good store.
“I don’t know why it is done,” Townsend said. “It’s very frustrating having something like this going on, but sooner or later the luck of the draw is we’re going to have someone close enough or somebody is going to see it and they will call us.”
Townsend said he has notified the New Mexico State Police of the problem. The police have no suspects in the case.
“We are presuming that it is some juveniles,” Townsend said. “Adults have other things to do.”
Damage Hurts Business
Jennings Furniture opened its doors on Main Street in 1960. Store owner Stanley Jennings said he was first hit by the vandals about six months ago. Since then, he said it is impossible to recall how many times his windows have been hit, but he has quit filing police reports.
“What is the use of the report if you can’t get any results,” he said.
He was last targeted two weeks ago, when the main entry door glass was shattered during the night causing an estimated $6,000 damage. He said he can no longer afford to replace the windows each time they are damaged.
“I am just going to put up ugly looking boards and say, ‘this is our town,’” Jennings said. “It’s a shame, the town didn’t use to be this way.”
Tucumcari Lumber employee John Thompson first noticed the nickel size break in the store’s front glass Friday morning. It was the first such incident for the First Street business. Since the shot, vibrations by passing trucks and the swinging front door has caused expansion in the crack.
“I thought it was a .22 shot,” Thompson said. “When the police looked at it he said ‘no that’s a ball bearing, that’s what’s going around.’”
Getting it fixed
While the damage has been a financial and aesthetic nuisance for businesses, it has meant more work for Franklin Jackson, an independent glass installer in Tucumcari. Jackson has received dozens of calls for shot out windows including Tucumcari Lumber.
He said Main Street has suffered the worst blows and all the damage is similar.
“It has been the same type of object, either shot out of a gun or shot out of a slingshot,” Jackson said.
While the windows can go unfixed during the summer season, Jackson said that as the temperature drops, the window facing outside will cool while the inside remains warm, causing the window panes to break.
While the vandalism has meant increased business, Jackson said he doesn’t want to be known for fixing vandalism. Many of his customers are also his friends.
“I would rather not do vandalism,” he said. “It’s like a mortician, they don’t want people dying in car wrecks.”
At Readmore Bookstore on Tucumcari Blvd., owner Dave Short separated two window panes into eight to reduce replacement costS after his first window was shot about a year ago. When it happened again he began using a plexiglass as a replacement. Short caught the shooters on a security videotape, but the automobile could not be identified.
Heather Smith, co-owner of Quality Tire and Lube also separated her store windows in December when more than four shots struck her building’s windows and a car in the parking lot had a window shatter.
The incidents typically occur during the night and are not reported until morning when the damage is discovered. Townsend said because the shots are fired silently and from a moving vehicl, the perpetrators are difficult to catch, even with added enforcement.
His department is stepping up surveillance around the area, but he said the community must remain vigilant and report anything suspicious.
“We ask the public if they see anything or hear anything to give us a call,” he said. “I know the people’s frustration on it and they have to understand our frustration too.”