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Grand Forks residents suffering under barrage of BB gun vandalism incidents; as many as 50 cars have been shot

GRAND FORKS - Residents here are getting pummeled by more than snow lately. They're getting hit as vandals randomly shoot BB or pellet guns at cars, shattering glass and denting doors.

GRAND FORKS - Residents here are getting pummeled by more than snow lately. They're getting hit as vandals randomly shoot BB or pellet guns at cars, shattering glass and denting doors.

Police have not reported any injuries and have not arrested a suspect.

The only clue was a glimpse of a "reddish-colored" car, possibly a Grand Am, that was seen in the vicinity of one of the incidents. The vandals struck half a dozen vehicles during the weekend and as many as 40 more since the beginning of the year.

Early Thursday, there was a report of yet another broken window, this time on a forklift at a construction site. No one in the construction company was available to talk about the broken window.

Angie Munter was one car owner who discovered a shattered rear window on the family Pontiac Bonneville early Saturday.

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"At first we didn't see it because it had crystallized ice all over," she said. The window wasn't in pieces but etched with multiple cracks, she said, but she replaced it immediately. "We were scared with the window like that, that it could coming crashing down."

Saturday morning was bitterly cold, with a subzero temperature and wind speeds as high as 35 mph, which was additional motivation for Munter.

"It's bad any time of the year, but you definitely couldn't live without (car windows) this time of year," she said.

The Munters weren't alone in Grand Forks.

The way Crys Madsen's Ford Escort looked, someone must have used a beer bottle to break the rear window, Madsen said.

"It happens," she said and she would know, too. Vandals broke windows on the same Escort when she lived in California and in Utah, she said.

The damage "one little pellet" can do is astounding, said Steve Tiseth, owner of Unique Auto Body and Sales in Grand Forks. He's had a few similarly damaged vehicles in his shop over the past month.

"We had a Suzuki Grand Atara in here that had been shot in the doors and a window was busted out," he said. The repair bill came to about $1,130, he said, because the doors had to be repainted and the windows replaced.

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"If they shoot the door, you've got to paint the whole door," he said. If the damage is close to either another door or another car panel, that's going to have to be painted too, he said, to blend the color evenly. "It costs $350 to $400 to paint one door."

Window replacement costs, ranging from $150 to $300 each, depend on the location of the window and whether it's got added features such as defrosters or radio antennae, according to auto repair specialists around the city.

The rub is most vehicle owners will have to eat the cost, Tiseth said. Many insurance deductibles are set at $500, he said.

Although there have been more than 50 reports of criminal mischief involving broken vehicle windows in the city since Jan. 1, the rash of vandalism isn't an epidemic, said Grand Forks Police Lt. Grant Schiller.

It's likely one person or two "doing it for kicks," he said. And police are "specifically looking to find the person or persons involved," he said.

There's no evidence to say any of the broken windows are connected, but there's also no evidence to say they're not, according to police. Several times, the incidents have occurred in spurts over one or two nights. That's including activity in mid-January, as well as last weekend.

The biggest help to police in random crimes such as these is public information.

"If somebody knows something, or has heard something, they should promptly call the Grand Forks Police Department with any information regardless of how insignificant they think it will be," Schiller said.

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The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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