Several fish have been stolen from IU’s Showalter Fountain over the years – most recently in the summer of 2010. IU Curator of Campus Art Sherry Rouse says the school has tried criminal prosecution before, but it just wasn’t worth it.
“The last time somebody took a fish we arrested that person and that person went to jail and did a little time,” Rouse says. “There’s no way to really prosecute – this person was a student. You don’t end up being able to win. The parents are already paying the university; this person doesn’t have money to pay for the fish. And so you end up kind of dead in the water.”
IU Campus Safety Director Jerry Minger says a three-year lag in the search for the fish’s abductor meant the trail had gone cold. So when the opportunity came to get the artifact back, he counseled Rouse to seek the art, not the thief.
“In criminal investigations, the quicker you can act on an investigation, especially with good information, the better chance you have of retrieving property and/or finding someone to charge and convict in a crime,” Minger says.
Currently, the fountain is mostly empty, awaiting the annual spring installation of the fish-shaped spigots. Rouse says they’re now better-anchored to the fountain to help prevent future incidents.