Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

December 6, 2013

City employees work to illuminate Holiday of Lights after copper theft

BLUEFIELD — City employees worked Thursday to restore Christmas lights dimmed by greedy copper thieves while police kept watch and worked to bring the thieves to justice.

An individual or individuals invaded the annual Bluefield Holiday of Lights in Lotito Park Sunday and Tuesday, stealing copper power cables during both instances, said Director Dwight Godwin of the Bluefield Parks and Recreation Department.

Godwin estimated the thefts shut down 10 to 15 percent of the Christmas light displays. Getting the lights back on is not an easy process.

“Obviously, it’s very labor intensive,” Godwin said. “Ten to 15 percent may not seem like much, but it’s a lot of darkness. That’s when you don’t have something illuminated.”

The annual Holiday of Lights display is a major event for Bluefield, and many people make a visit to the displays part of their holiday tradition.

“A lot of people travel here to see the lights and it’s a lot of disappointment for them,” he said of the dark displays. “You hear the rave reviews all the time.”

Bluefield Parks and Recreation employees are working hard to get the lights back on while putting up new displays.

“We have not put out the Twelve Days of Christmas yet,” Godwin said.

Cables must be replaced and run back to the displays, and workers must make sure they use the correct power loads.

“Just to show the intensity level, we’ve been working on this since October,” Godwin stated. The act of one or more individuals is not going to put out the Holiday of Lights, he added.

“The message is that the show will go on, and it will be back at full capacity,” Godwin said. “And we just ask everyone to be patient with us; because at the end of the day, donations gracious people provide allow us to put this on at no charge, and add displays each year.”

By the time labor hours and supplies are figured into the equation, restoring the lights will cost more than $2,000, he added.

Much of the park is in Virginia, so the Bluefield, Va., Police Department is investigating the thefts. Investigators believe the thief or thieves entered the park from the Virginia side at least once, said Chief Harry Cundiff.

“We’re just checking all the leads that we can,” Cundiff said. “It’s disgusting because this is for both Bluefields and the area, and these thugs come by and ruin it for everybody.”

The person or persons who stole the copper cables could be facing serious charges.

“We’re hoping we can get them with at least felonies where they could get some prison time out of it,” Cundiff said. “We’re doing our best to have these fellows in jail in time for Christmas. That will be our gift to them. We’ve increased our patrols in certain areas. We’re utilizing everything that we can to catch these guys, and we’re keeping a very, very close watch.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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