SEATTLE -- Christmas on campus. As students leave the UW for the holidays, the university issues a warning--don't cut down campus trees.
"It's disappointing for sure," said UW Arborist Sara Shores. "You can see the hatchet marks."
University arborists made a disturbing discovery two weeks ago. Someone tried to chop down a 20 foot spruce on the north end of campus. It's a tree worth $1,000.
"We'll have to replace the tree," said Assistant Arborist Steve Kryszko.
They then discovered cut off cedar branches stacked up in a parking lot.
"My co-worker said it was a truck load," said University of Washington police Commander Steve Rittereiser.
It is the kind of greenery used to make holiday wreaths.
"Its sad people come on public land and take from public spaces," said Kryszko.
And then last week, the final straw. They found a small cedar cut in half--another $1,000 tree. The destruction ruins the green design outside the penthouse theater.
"It looks like half a tree. It looks like a waste," said Commander Rittereiser.
"It is a felony crime, vandalism."
So who's the Grinch that stole the campus trees? University police are actively looking for thieves.
On a campus so proud of its natural beauty, the holiday tree caper is disappointing news to students.
"If they want a tree they should buy one," said one student.
"I think the people should be caught and fined," said another.
The penalty is not very joyous. If caught, the tree thief will have to pay three times the value of the tree--In this case, a $3,000 fine.