ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Downtown St. Petersburg has been the target of a mysterious parking meter vandal for the past two weeks. The suspect has caused thousands of dollars in damages, and could be facing felony charges once apprehended.
On Wednesday, someone vandalized 21 meters along Bayshore Boulevard and Beach Drive with a foam sealant. This is the third incident since October 27, bringing the total number of vandalized meters to 74.
"Someone is putting a sealant, a foam sealant that you spray into the places where you put your money and your change and it causes just a lot of damage. We're talking thousands of dollars worth of damage," explained Yolanda Fernandez, the spokesperson with the St. Petersburg Police Department.
The city had estimated spending $10,000 to $12,000 to replace the 53 previously damaged meters. That estimate has since gone up, as each meter costs at least $550 to replace.
Due to the cost of the damage caused by the suspect, potential charges continue to increase.
"This could be a felony criminal mischief because of the money involved and the damages, so these are some pretty serious charges," Fernandez said. "It's not a prank anymore."
If the vandalism was intended to be a joke, few find it funny.
City workers spent Wednesday taking apart the meters, scraping off the foam with the hopes of salvaging what they could.
"They're going through them now and manually trying to clean them up," Fernandez said.
After a lot of money and a lot of manpower, police are fed up. They are now warning the vandal that time is running out.
"We'll find them and they will be charged," Fernandez warned.
The St. Petersburg Police Department is asking the public to come forward with any information that could lead to identifying the suspect.