Vandals threaten Haines City light display

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A new Christmas light display in Haines City seems to have attracted the attention of more than just visitors: Someone is taking away the city's new holiday light display, bulb by bulb.

"This year was the first year in a long time that we didn't do our Christmas parade, so we wanted to do something that was monumental, something special," explained the city's Jonathan Evans.

So the city bought $40,000 worth of "special," adorning Lake Eva Park with a big Christmas tree and 800,000 lights.

But one week later, the display has lost a little of its sparkle.  Vandals have removed more than 700 bulbs, and swiped power cables, including timers that control the display. 

"It's just morally reprehensible," Evans continued.  "This is the holiday season. This is where families come together."

"It's just senseless," resident Heather Cate offered.  "I mean, people try to do fun things with their kids around the holidays, and then you have things like that happening, you know?"

To discourage the vandals, the city is having parks employees stay in the park until it closes, which means paying them overtime.  And the city has assigned a police officer to watch the park after hours, but that comes at another cost to residents.

"It does take away somebody from off the street in certain areas of town at various times of night," conceded Rick Sloan, the city's public safety director.

Evans believes it's an investment worth making.  He sees the holiday lights as something that could draw a lot visitors in the future.

"We have 800,000 lights. We want to see it grow to a million, maybe two million in future years," he added.