Courts & Crime

Christmas lights vandal already has his stripes

Every year, we have stories about Christmas decorations being stolen or damaged, but Mark Brown's holiday vandalism story had a different -- and humorous -- twist.

Brown, who lives in a Smithton subdivision, said he puts up a nice light display each year.

"You know how it goes. Since my wife was enthused, I had them up before Thanksgiving," Brown said. "We had a lot of stuff and on one side was a set of star lights on the blind side of the house."

One night, when the lights wouldn't light up, he discovered that the wires had been cut in two.

"I thought, 'Well it was dry rot or something and they just came apart," he said. "So I went and bought another string. It cost $11 or so."

A few days later, someone also cut the new set.

"I was getting kind of irritated, wondering what was going on," he said. "I couldn't imagine who could be doing this. I thought I would just keep a closer eye out."

But then it happened again and he got really mad.

"I'm thinking I may go door to door, asking what kids could be doing this," he said. "I'm going on about what a nice neighborhood this used to be until someone started doing this. So I went out and bought one of those game cameras and a surveillance system."

The camera takes pictures when a trigger is tripped, usually motion. Hunters use them to discover where animals such as deer congregate and the best places to hunt.

"I was really outraged," Brown said. "I sat up like 12 nights in a row, waiting to catch someone. One night the sensor went off at 2 a.m. I knew it wasn't a car. I ran out but couldn't see anyone."

Everything calmed down for a while and nothing happened to the lights. But then one night, it happened again.

"I went out and grabbed the microchip out of the camera and took it to the police department. I was going to take care of this," he said.

Someone at the Smithton Police Department pulled up the pictures on a computer and looked at them.

"I was watching it carefully. I felt like Columbo. I was on the case," Brown said. "Suddenly the policeman said, 'I think that's your man.'"

On the screen was a fat raccoon ambling toward the lights.

Everything clicked in.

"Looking back, the early wires were clipped clean through, but the last one, it was kind of ragged. You could see where it was bitten," Brown said.

"I feel kind of guilty, like I should apologize to all the kids I thought might have done it," he said.

At least he had a good story to tell his friends.

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