Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 9, 2013

Our own Grinch? Light display theft a contemptible act


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— In 2009, Bluefield’s Holiday of Lights was repeatedly targeted by thieves seeking copper wire. The crimes were an awful act then, and they are just as terrible now. As of Thursday, one or more individuals have stolen Holiday of Lights cables twice, shutting down large sections of the festive displays. This creates a lot of disappointment when visitors arrive only to see their favorite displays dark and cold thanks to an act of thievery.

The city takes great pride in the Holiday of Lights display. Many families make visits to the dazzling Christmas lights one of their holiday traditions. Grandparents who want to entertain their visiting grandchildren take them for a ride through Lotito Park so the children will have Christmas memories they can treasure. Many visitors drive for hours just so they can drive through the city park and see the colorful displays of Christmas cheer.

In 2009, investigators with the Bluefield and Bluefield, Va. police departments believed the thieves were using all-terrain vehicles to bypass locked gates and enter the park through Virginia. Today’s thieves could be using similar means to enter the park.

City leaders hoped the culprits would find some Christmas spirit in their hearts and renounce such thefts. Whether the 2009 thieves saw the light is unknown, but the thieves now striking the Holiday of Lights have a chance to find redemption.

We are confident our local law enforcement will catch these perpetrators — and quickly. Stealing from the Holiday of Lights display is, in essence, stealing from every individual in the city and region who enjoys the annual tradition of visiting the display.

It’s stealing from children and their parents.

It’s stealing from grandparents.

It’s stealing from hard-working parents who drive through the light show so their kids can enjoy the spirit of the holiday.

To compound the situation, stealing these electrical cables is also dangerous. Pulling out cables or cutting them with a knife or tools exposes the culprits to high voltage. More than one life has been lost when thieves invade coal mines and work sites to steal copper cable; they are risking their lives for a modest amount of money. Electrocution takes only one fatal moment. Then families are left to face the fact that a loved one died while stealing during the Christmas season. That is not the sort of legacy the Holiday of Lights was meant to create.

Who steals from children and grandparents? Other than a Grinch, of course. In the classic Dr. Seuss story, the Grinch saw the error of his ways and returned all of the Christmas presents and ornaments he had stolen. He learned not to put his desires before the happiness and welfare of other people. The thieves would do well to heed the lessons in a holiday tale written for children.

We hope the true seriousness of this crime, and its impact on people across the region, weighs heavy on the individuals who perpetrated this despicable act. And we hope our local law enforcement officials are able to bring these suspects to justice soon. The Holiday of Lights is a tradition that is well worth protecting.