Camera catches vandals knocking down street lights

- Neighbors in a Riverview subdivision hope home surveillance video will help them catch vandals who have been knocking down their street lights.

For years, residents in the Panther Trace Subdivision have noticed 12-foot lights lining the streets getting knocked down overnight.

"It has to be 15 to 20 in the last couple of years," said resident Donald Moss.

They initially thought cars were hitting the poles, but later began to suspect some of the damage was the work of vandals.

On Saturday, May 7, a resident off Panther Trace Boulevard captured three suspects on a home surveillance camera hopping out of an apparent white Kia Sportage and ferociously shaking a pole until it fell to the ground. The suspects quickly drove off, leaving the street filled with shattered glass.

Neighbors say the prank is not funny, but rather, a hazard.

"It's unfortunate. It's dangerous as well. There are kids running around here all the time, people ride their bikes, they're running, and you're having to avoid glass," said Moss.

According to Bruce St Denis, District Manager of the Panther Trace Community Development District (CDD), in the past, it has been difficult for the CDD to report the broken lights as a crime, since previously there was no proof of what was causing it.

It is protocol for the CDD to contact TECO Energy once a broken street light is spotted. The power company pays for the damage, sending its employees to fix or replace the broken light and pole. TECO Energy representatives said the street lights are insured, and it is not uncommon to replace nearly two dozen streetlights in a subdivision the size of Panther Trace over a two year period.

Neighbors are taking matters into their own hands.

They have contacted the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to report the most recent act of vandalism caught on camera. They are also circulating the video on social media, hoping someone will identify the vehicle or the suspects and turn them in.

"You don't want to have to worry about any kind of criminal activity going on when you're trying to sleep," said Moss.

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