FGCU female students believe Xs carved on vehicles were meant to target women

Reporter: Morgan Rynor Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Xs are seen carved into an FGCU student’s vehicle. She and a few other female students believe this was targeted and done at their off-campus complex. Credit: WINK News.

An X was keyed into a college student’s car off campus, and she wants to know why. She’s not alone.

Women at FGCU are worried they’re being targeted and say FGCU’s University Police Department is not taking their safety seriously after they found their cars vandalized off campus.

Sophia Costa got out of class Tuesday to find her car vandalized. An X had been etched right on top of the hood of her car, and she believes it happened at her complex off-campus overnight.

Sophia is one of five female students who live at an off-campus complex and discovered the same thing.

“I knew I didn’t want to go home,” Sophia said. “That was the first thing. It’s like, just in case if anyone’s tracking me.”

She meant tracking women for sex trafficking. That fear quickly spread around campus and to parents of students.

“My daughter called me, and she’s like that I have the Xs on my car,” Peter Costa explained. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, send a picture of them, and immediately call the police.’”

The vandalism happened off campus, so Lee County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation. It’s not within the jurisdiction of FGCU’s University Police Department, so UPD Chief Steven Moore sent out an email to stop any misinformation spreading around FGCU.

“Obviously, no one would need to ‘mark a vehicle’ as being owned by a female, since the cars already have sorority window decals,” Chief Moore wrote in his public address.

Some fear the chief’s response has been underwhelming to the recent vandalism.

“I get kind of trying to like make people seem less scared by telling them like, ‘Oh, it’s just the prank. Don’t worry too much about it,’” Sophia said. “But like that’s, you know, you’re still gonna worry.”

“To see something like that was very upsetting because it seemed like it really diminished what people were concerned about,” Chloe Johnson said.

Chief Moore would not speak to us on camera, but he responded to us via email, further explaining his reasoning behind his response to current concerns.

“The purpose was to show the facts versus the misinformation being posted on social media,” Moore sent WINK News in an email. “The misinformation is increasing fear based on criminal mischief from over 2 weeks ago.”

Moore encourages anyone who experiences similar acts against them or any type of crime to contact law enforcement. He said he and UPD plan to set up a virtual safety presentation for Greek life.

Johnson said it needs to be campus-wide because she says sex trafficking is real.

As for Sophia Costa and her dad, they hope this really is just a prank. But just in case, she now has pepper spray and a stun gun.

Johnson also told us the chief’s email could do more harm than any good intended.

“You think back to like, ‘Oh I don’t want to call UPD. I don’t want them to think I’m being dramatic,’” Johnson said.

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