Bad Balcony Behavior: New semester, same concerns for the Islamic Center of Tucson

KOLD 10 p.m. Bad balcony behavior

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A new semester at the University of Arizona means new residents at many of the off-campus high-rises around campus.

For the Islamic Center of Tucson, some of the new students also bring some of the same behaviors that could put their members at risk.

The Islamic Center of Tucson, on the corner of Tyndall Avenue and First Street, shares space with several student-housing high-rises. Several balconies of the Luna building, part of the development Sol y Luna, look over the ICT’s back parking lot and basketball court.

“We have to live here. We have to live with other people, they have to live with us and we have to understand each other,” said Irfan Sheikh, a member of the Islamic Center of Tucson’s Board of Directors.

Sheikh said the most recent incident happened Saturday around 9:45 p.m. He said people were pouring alcohol and threw at least one aluminum beer can while kids played basketball below.

“Was anybody hurt? Because there was a basketball game happening. One of our guys actually had alcohol fall on him," said Moeed Irfan, in learning of the incident.

Not only is the action a serious concern for the ICT, but Sheikh explained there is more meaning for members than just safety. Alcohol is prohibited in the Islamic Faith.

“We don’t want to touch, drink, find it on our skin, clothes, because that renders me, my clothes, not suitable for the prayer," Sheikh said.

With a new semester, ICT board member Mahmoud Abagi said the same cycle seems to continue.

“Typically we find most of the incidents are when there is someone out here, which makes our community feel like it’s targeted," said Abagi.

This isn’t the first time the ICT has dealt with issues. A member shared photos of a broken window with KOLD News 13. He said a stick was thrown from a balcony last semester, which caused a member’s car window to shatter.

[ UA students throwing glass bottles at Islamic Center of Tucson again ]

In 2016, four UA student were evicted from their unit after they were caught throwing things, like glass bottles and aluminum cans.

“Just because we are from a different faith does not mean we are not human beings," Sheikh said.

At the time, Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik arranged a meeting between his office, the property management group that runs the student housing units, the Islamic center, police and university officials to put a stop to the incidents.

Management also said it would seal off balconies on the south side of the building.

For Abagi, the change didn’t seem to stick.

“We’ve had incidents with vehicles being damaged or it getting a couple feet from a child. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when," said Abagi. “So it makes it an unfriendly environment, as much as you work with management, we don’t seem to be getting anywhere.”

A spokesperson with the Tucson Police Department said an officer responded to the incident Saturday night. According to the TPD, a report was taken where the victim stated that alcohol was sprayed on him from an unknown apartment at the Sol Y Luna apartments. No arrests were made.

Sheikh said they find it hard to track down a suspect with no direct identification during incidents. He said ICT members also spoke to the building manager Monday, but were unable to get a direct solution to the recurring problem.

“Just few people’s actions should not stop us," said Sheikh. "I don’t know, somehow we have to work it out. I hope we do.”

KOLD News 13 reached out to Kozachik Monday night regarding the recent incident. He had not yet heard about the situation, but called the news a “significant issue” that “deserves management acting immediately.”

He shared an email he sent to management with KOLD News 13:

"Over the weekend we experienced yet another round of incidents at the student housing tower you manage in Tucson that sits adjacent to the Islamic Center of Tucson. I say ‘yet another’ because it was 2 years ago this sort of behavior erupted. The result at that time was the eviction of the students who were in charge of the room from which the incidents took place.

Two years ago objects were thrown from upper floors of what is now your complex. Ethnic slurs were shouted and Israeli flags were on display. Last weekend beer was dumped from the upper floors of your complex onto children who were playing at the ICT's property below. As was true of the last time this took place, beer cans were thrown and ethnic slurs were yelled at the people below. This is not an example of a drunken prank. It is nothing less than a hate crime and must be treated as such.

When a class of people is targeted, you should join me in having zero tolerance for that behavior. Everyone, including your management company is simply lucky that there were no injuries suffered from the objects thrown onto the people below.

I have our Chief of Police copied into this. He and I worked tirelessly in addressing the first set of these incidents. A part of the resolution was placement of cameras on your building, the purpose of which was to be able to identify the rooms from which similar incidents took place. I am requesting you review the tapes from those cameras and take swift and significant action against the occupants of that suite. The incident took place at 9:50pm on Saturday night. You should be able to have your security people review the tapes with very little effort, identify the suite from which the beer, and beer cans were thrown, and take action.

In the current political climate, where we see shootings take place aimed at people simply based on who they are or their belief system, allowing incidents such as this to pass without acting is nothing short of enabling a more severe outcome next time. And there will be a next time if you do not act."

KOLD News 13 reached out to Sol Y Luna building management Monday. A representative with Luna said he would send the message to the appropriate party.

Emails to Sol y Luna representatives and GMH University Housing, the management company based in Newtown, PA, were not returned Monday night.

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