String of vandalism incidents plague Oldsmar

A string of vandalism incidents, including cutting the city’s Christmas tree lights and breaking a sentimental statue, has plagued Oldsmar in recent weeks.

A string of vandalism incidents has plagued Oldsmar in recent weeks, promoting city officials and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to ask residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to police.

A string of vandalism incidents has plagued Oldsmar in recent weeks, promoting city officials and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to ask residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to police.

A string of vandalism incidents, each one more troubling than the last, has plagued Oldsmar in recent weeks, prompting officials to ask residents to be alert and report any suspicious activity to police.

Lights were cut on Oldsmar's old Christmas tree at R.E. Olds Park.

The lights were recently cut on Oldsmar’s old Christmas tree at R.E. Olds Park.

The wave of incidents began late last month, when someone cut the lights on the Christmas tree that was being displayed at R.E. Olds Park for the annual Christmas Wonderland event.

“While we were preparing the tree for Christmas Wonderland, someone noticed all the lights had been cut from inside the tree,” Mayor Doug Bevis told Oldsmar Connect the night of the event, which was held on Friday, December 2.

Bevis said he nearly made an announcement about the incident while he was on stage at the event, but decided against it.

“I wanted to say, hey, whoever cut the lights on the tree, thanks a lot, you’re a real Grinch!” he said. “But I didn’t want to put a damper on the evening.”

The same weekend, former City Council member Linda Norris had her car sprayed with a fire extinguisher as it sat in her driveway on Oakwood Boulevard overnight.

Former Oldsmar City Council member Linda Norris.

Former Oldsmar City Council member Linda Norris.

“I came out the next morning and saw a big bold line of yellowish powder on the hood of my car,” Norris said a week after the incident, which occurred between 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 4, and 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 5. “I didn’t know what it was at first, but then my son told me it was spray from a fire extinguisher.”

Norris immediately washed her car and removed the substance, but she was more concerned with another troubling aspect of the crime.

“I have a bag for dog poop that hangs down in the front of my yard, and they sprayed into the bag and spread the poop up and down the sidewalk, all the way around the corner onto Shore Drive,” she said. “It was really disgusting.”

Norris, who said the incident occurred outside the perimeter of her security cameras, filed a police report. She said the incident concerned her, not so much for its severity, but for what it could lead to.

“This time it was a fire extinguisher, but next time it could be baseball or bricks,” she said.

This statue of Jerry Beverland's late granddaughter, Ashley, was recently vandalized on Shore Drive West. Credit: Jerry Beverland.

This statue of Jerry Beverland’s late granddaughter, Ashley, was recently vandalized on Shore Drive West. Credit: Jerry Beverland.

Unfortunately, the next incident was more damaging than the prior two, especially on a personal level.

One week after the Norris incident, a statue of current City Council member and former mayor Jerry Beverland’s late granddaughter, Ashley, was smashed from its base on Shore Drive West and left on the sidewalk in pieces.

“We lost our 16-year-old granddaughter in 2006 when she was hit by a car while riding her skateboard in Clearwater,” an emotional Beverland told Oldsmar Connect days after the incident, which occurred on Sunday, December 11. “The statue was bought for $2,000 by friends, and the city let us put the stature along Shore Drive West near the dog park.”

“That Sunday night, a neighbor came by and said they saw the stature broken off at the ankle, but the people took off,” he added. “So I went down there with a gun and a flashlight and carried it back to my house.”

Beverland, who has been undergoing treatments for esophagus cancer, leaving him physically and mentally drained, said it was difficult to carry the heavy statue, but he wasn’t about to leave it there as-is.

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland.

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland.

“It was heavy, but I’ll be damned if I was going to let someone steal my granddaughter,” he said.

Beverland added he plans to repair and replace the statue, and he hopes the city will allow him to put it back where it’s been for the past ten years.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do, because it belongs to the city,” he said. “I’ll see if they want to put it back, because our beautiful daughter has never gotten over what happened.”

While Mayor Bevis believes the vandalism is the result of a bunch of “hooligans,” as was the case with a rash of burglaries that occurred in town a few months ago, he advised residents to be alert and aware of what’s going on around them.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

“We don’t really get a lot of crime happening in Oldsmar, but these types of incidents can happen anywhere, and people need to be aware of it,” Bevis said before the Safety Harbor Holiday Parade last week.

“If you see someone or something that looks suspicious, don’t hesitate to report it to the police.”

All three incidents were reported to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, who are currently investigating the Beverland case.

“This case is being investigated by detectives as it is believed that a citizen heard the statue fall and possibly may have been a witness to this act of vandalism,” PCSO Captain Jack Peterson, commander of the North District Station, told Oldsmar Connect via email.

R.E. Olds Park is located at 107 Shore Drive W. in Oldsmar.

R.E. Olds Park.

Peterson added that these incidents all occurred at or near R.E. Olds Park, which has little lighting and no security cameras, and he urged residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

“Two of the three listed reports occurred at R.E. Olds Park, and unfortunately that area is very dark at night and there are no cameras,” he wrote.

“I suggest that any citizen that see’s anything they believe to be suspicious or out of place to call the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office so that it can be investigated. We need citizens’ eyes and ears, and video if available, to assist us in investigating crimes.”

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Ed. Note: An earlier version of this article contained a photo of a Christmas tree which was not the tree that was referred to in the piece. The image has been changed to reflect the tree that was vandalized.

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