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Temple heightens security after vandalism, harassment

The Cambodian Buddhist temple in southeast Rochester has taken a series of security measures following a string of vandalism and harassment.

The temple installed motion-detecting exterior lights and a steel-barred security door in the monks' residence in March after attempted break-ins by a man wearing a ski mask, said Chhan Aun, 60, the temple's head monk. The measures have not stopped the break-in attempts, five in total, Aun said.

Following a suggestion from the post office, the temple also removed its mailbox from 29th Street Southeast last week and and placed it next to its main building at the end of a long driveway.

The box has been repeatedly vandalized. Incoming and outgoing mail has been stolen in recent years, including bank statements, bills, and immigration documents whose theft has complicated the arriva of new monks from Cambodia, according to temple members.

"Our mailbox has been destroyed so many times, we're sick of it," said temple member Tracy Sam.


Vandalism at the temple a year ago included smashed lights, yanked flowers and a cross along with "Jesus saves" spray-painted on the driveway in orange.

Aun hasn't gotten a clear view of the mailbox vandals because the street is far from the building where he lives with two other monks. He's seen a car drive away after hearing what appears to be a hammer banging the box, he said.

The would-be intruder in the first attempted break-in earlier this year was a man in his late 30s or early 40s who didn't appear Caucasian, Aun said. The man tried to open several doors but ran when he looked in the window and saw Aun holding up a telephone threatening to call police.

Aun said he isn't sure if the same man has been involved in subsequent break-in attempts because the suspect has been wearing a ski mask.

Mailbox vandalism and mail thefts have happened at the temple sporadically since 2005, according to temple members. They haven't reported this year's vandalism and attempted break-ins out of fear of retribution but finally did so on Friday after their mailbox was damaged four times in a month, Sam said. The temple has had to buy four replacement mailboxes since 2007, she said.

Mailbox vandalism is common, especially this time of year, but it is very unusual for one mailbox to be targeted as often as the Buddhist temple's has been, said Olmsted County sheriff's deputy Jim Schueller.

"If it's happening this often, we want to start tracking it and see if we can do something about it," Schueller told Aun and other temple members Friday.

Schueller said he would request extra patrols of the temple area.

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