Valrico youth football targeted by vandals

- A Valrico youth football organization was the target of vandals. Over the weekend, they say the criminals struck once again, leaving behind another expensive mess.

On any given night at Valrico Park, you'll find a group of kids. They're running, tackling and tossing the ball around, all for the love of the game.

The season hasn't started for the Valrico Rams Youth Football and Cheer organization, but it's already counting losses.

"We're over $10,000 of damaged goods and that's not even including what parents have had to endure with their cars getting broken into," said Athletic Director Lawrence Pace.

In the last year, the Pop Warner league has been hit three times by thieves and vandals.

"They stole our ice machine, that was a big cost to us," Pace said. "We had to replace that because we need that going into the season. They broke in just about a month ago and stole one of the welders that was welding a secure mount so nobody would steal the ice machine."

This past weekend, criminals left behind a trail of destruction. They cut through a chain link fence, broke a spotlight, switched the power off, broke the locks and the glass at the concession stand and smashed open the cash registers.

"I guess they just assumed we leave money inside it," said board member Kyle Jones as hr looked down at the pieces.

The problem is, at night, once the games are over, it gets dark around the field and parking lot.

Really dark.

The only light comes from the concession stand area and from a lone spotlight in the back.

"It attracts a lot of people because of the darkness, things that shouldn't be going on in a park," Pace said.

The organization has installed cameras and even light poles, but don't have the wiring to get them up and running. Now, they're begging Hillsborough County, which owns the park, to light it up so thieves stay out.

"In my opinion, this place should be lit up like a Christmas tree," Jones said.

With each hit, the league and its parents are forced to fork over money for repairs, money that should be going toward things like a broken scoreboard and most importantly, to the kids.

"We've put the cost into trying to do things but we are losing money here and if we keep getting hit, it's going to bleed back onto the kids," Pace said.

"It's not going to stop us," Jones said. "At the end of the day, we are out here for what is out there on the field."

FOX 13 reached out to the county's office of Parks and Recreation to see if there are any plans in the works to help prevent future crimes at Valrico Park, but they have yet to respond.

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