Ten Tabor College students will be making personal apologies to several families victimized by the Oct. 30 theft of more than 100 pumpkins from residential areas in Hillsboro.
The pumpkins were taken sometime during the early morning hours of Oct. 31 and then placed in the courtyard at the women’s quad on campus, said Beth Riffel, Tabor College director of communications,
“These young men will be doing some community service hours and restitution in conjunction with this caper,” she said.
As for the personal apologies, Riffel said the students will be escorted by a staff member to the homes of people who called in and reported pumpkins stolen.
It may have seemed to be in the “spirit of fun,” she said, as to why the students took the pumpkins, but it wasn’t a good decision.
“This is a classic example of not understanding the heartbreak these young people caused to (local) children,” she said.
Dan Kinning, Hillsboro police chief, said the decision on whether the students will be prosecuted depends on Marion County Attorney Susan Robson.
“These kids need to realize they were on private property. They could very well be charged with several hundred misdemeanor charges apiece,” he said. “This was no joke.”
Kinning said the fact that they didn’t smash/destroy the pumpkins or damage private property will be factored in.
“They probably won’t be prosecuted, but I cannot say for sure,” he said.
Another thing the students may not have thought about was the expense involved.
“It cost the community in tying us up,” he said.
One woman said she was missing work because of the “thoughtlessness” of these people.
Kinning said he had very little feedback from people who had pumpkins taken from their yards.
“But some people were very upset,” he said. “What the students perceived as a prank was actually a criminal act—it wasn’t so much the pumpkins, but they went on private property to take them.
“Next time (the pranksters) might not be so lucky and could be prosecuted.”
Parents look for pumpkins
Several parents on Thursday searched for their children’s pumpkins through the myriad of gourds scattered around the courtyard after college officials reported the incident on Facebook.
For many parents, stealing a child’s carved pumpkin was bewildering. Laura Paulus, one of the residents affected by the theft, said her children decorated six pumpkins and all of them were stolen in front of their home.
She said she couldn’t understand why the “pranksters” took the carved ones.
“I would like them to look my 3-year-old (in the eye) and have to explain why they did this,” Paulus said.
Another mother, who asked to remain anonymous, had about 12 pumpkins stolen from her porch on Lincoln Street.
“I don’t understand why these college kids would do something like this—particularly after the community has opened their arms to them,” she said. “My 4-year-old daughter is in tears.”
One parent said this incident was a “sick joke” and believes someone had to have seen something.
Another mother, who lives on West Grand and Date Street, said 12 pumpkins were taken from their home, adding that her friend’s husband spent a long time carving about half of them.
Kinning said on Thursday that the areas hit were scattered across the city.
One mother said the culprits even stole pumpkins from the Carriage Hills neighborhood on the south edge of town.
“What makes this even more sad,” she said, “is that several children picked out their very own pumpkins at either Jirak’s or Walter’s pumpkin patch.”
For more information, call Riffel at 620-947-3121.
In Marion, another group of pranksters were also stealing pumpkins.
According to Mitch Carlson, co-owner, Carlson’s Grocery left pumpkins and gourds outside. and about 30 pumpkins were stolen. Another woman had three large pumpkins taken from her home on the east side of Marion. The pumpkin would have required several people to move it.