Three men have been arrested and charged with the theft of four letters from Western Illinois University’s grand entryway sign at the northeast corner of campus. The “I,L, and L” from Illinois and the “T” from University were removed from the sign.
What remains in place of the letters are the pegs that held the letters along with some exposed wiring. A second I from Illinois is also missing, but the university said it was taken down due to damage.
Scott Harris, Director of Western's Office of Public Safety (OPS), said the three men arrested were Jacob Trotter, 20, and Jacob Robbins, 20, both of Machesney Park as well as Jackson McNamara, 21, of Rockford.
Harris said the three were arrested in Winnebago County. They are charged with theft of government property and criminal damage to government property which are both felony offenses.
Harris said they were visiting Macomb and are in no way affiliated with WIU.
Harris credited the arrests to a crime stoppers tip investigators received. He said it was a small tip, but it was enough.
“Sometimes you just need one little piece of the puzzle,” Harris said. “Solving a crime is like a puzzle and every little bit of information, no matter how small sometimes or innocuous, is just that piece of the puzzle. It was a small piece but it allowed us to start connecting some of the dots so to speak.”
OPS turned to the public for help in finding the vandals believing that someone had to have seen something with the sign being in such a prominent location at the intersection of U.S. 67 and University Drive.
Harris said a police agency cannot function without the support of the citizens it serves.
"Most agencies are small. For example, OPS [Western’s police department] is a force about 24, but we have a campus population of about 10,000. So at any given time, there are not a whole lot of officers working, but there’s a lot of citizens around,” Harris said.
“So we depend on the public to work with us because solving crime or keeping our community safe is not just the role of police it’s the role of everyone who lives in the community.”
Harris said the letters have not yet been recovered.
A WIU spokeswoman said purchasing replacements will cost about $3,300. Originally, it was reported that the cost would be around $1,500, but the university said that was bulk pricing and the letters cost more when purchasing only four at a time.