All eyes on Cuero Christmas in Park displays to keep vandals away
Anyone having information about vandalism of the Christmas in the Park holiday displays is asked to call DeWitt County Crime Stoppers at 361-275-0880.
CUERO - Potential vandals of the Cuero Christmas in the Park holiday displays be warned - you are being watched, you will be caught and you will be punished.
That's the message that event organizers, the city of Cuero and DeWitt County District Attorney Michael Sheppard are sending loud and clear.
"The Christmas In the Park display is a local treasure and we are all going to do our part to protect it," Sheppard said.
Some minor damage has already occurred this year with vandals striking the last week of October.
A new lighthouse display had 70 bulbs damaged, bulbs were stolen from another exhibit, the shepherd from the nativity scene was tipped into the park's lake and the camel was moved to the airport, said Tony Allen, a Cuero city councilman who also is a member of the December Events Committee that puts on the annual holiday display.
"It's not only the costs involved, but the time it takes for us to redo everything they undo," said committee member W.L. "Buzz" Edge.
The group begins setting up lights and displays the first week of October for the opening the Monday before Thanksgiving. Christmas in the Park is in its 11th year.
Security measures, including extra police patrols, are being increased at the park.
"We hope to have some security cameras installed in the very near future to help us catch whoever is doing this," said Cuero city manager Raymie Zella. "It is a shame we have to do this, but we need to let them know whoever is doing this that it won't be tolerated."
The December Events Committee, a committee of the Cuero Development Corporation, has offered to help pay for the cameras and the city will install and maintain them, Zella said.
In 2009, vandalism damaged some of the larger displays.
Earlier this year, Shane Torres and Scott Rogers, both 17 at the time they committed the vandalism, were sentenced to seven years probation.
They were also fined $500 each, ordered to serve 400 hours of community service and pay more than $60,000 in restitution.
They were both also sentenced to 50 days in jail.
Sheppard said he hopes the punishment of the two teens has sent a message to others considering vandalism.
"They will not be allowed off of probation for many years and even then not until all of the money is paid back and all of their community service hours have been completed," said the district attorney. "They must abide by curfews and follow all the rules of community supervision for many years to come, or run the risk of going to the pen for 10 years."
"It is a very high price to pay for the pleasure of destroying the public's property, and that price is not going to go down - if anything, it is going to go up if it happens again," Sheppard said.