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Vandals disturb peace in Valrico neighborhood

VALRICO — For most homes on Windjammer Place, bright new patches of paint on garage doors are the only visible evidence left from a crime spree a month ago.

Carrie Fisher's garage door has one of those paint patches, too, but her white truck still bears a long streak of paint all the way down its side.

When a group of youths painted graffiti on homes in Brandon, Valrico and Seffner neighborhoods Feb. 28, they hit more than 119 homes and caused homeowners $2,700 worth of damage, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. They painted swastikas, profanity and "2K10" on most garage doors. But at Fisher's home, they carried the spray can all the way down her driveway.

Although the expense prohibits her from repainting her truck right away, Fisher said she's more bothered by the selfishness of the crime.

"I think it was more so the time and the effort that you have to put into it to clean up somebody else's mess," she said.

The weekend of the graffiti spree, Fisher awoke on Sunday at 5 a.m. to a sheriff's deputy knocking on her door.

Her dog, a usually vocal chihuahua, hadn't even barked.

She spent the rest of her day removing paint and repainting her garage.

She hasn't heard from the Sheriff's Office since, she said, and all she knows about the vandals is what she saw on the news. The vandalism was her first major experience with crime, aside from a car break-in at work several years ago.

Three of the four suspects were arrested in March. One, Aaron Dennis Green, now 22, was charged with 87 counts of misdemeanor criminal mischief. One suspect was not charged, and was being considered a witness. Deputies have not released the names of the other two young men, both 17, because they are juveniles.

"I think I'm a little disappointed in the fact that most of the time, they're just going to get a slap on the wrist," Fisher said. She hasn't asked about insurance covering a new paint job on her truck, she said. Her husband, Frank, drives the truck to work every day, and she doesn't know when they would have time to take it into the shop.

If the authorities asked her, she said, she'd suggest that the culprits work minimum wage jobs and pay back homeowners for the damage.

As the most visible standing reminder of the graffiti rampage, neighbors still point out the truck when reminiscing about the crime.

Down the road on Rudder Drive, Paul Strollo and Karen Burgess stood outside their houses with their dogs. They described their neighborhood as quiet.

"Well, it was scary to me, because no one ever comes here," Burgess said. "And to think that they were here ...."

".... At our door," Strollo said.

Once they found out the culprits were youth, though, they said they felt more annoyance at alarm salesmen who went door-to-door after the vandalism than fear over their safety.

Burgess carries pepper spray when she walks her dog now, but otherwise does nothing differently.

"It was just a bunch of stupid kids," Burgess said.

Fisher, who stands about 5 feet tall, keeps her doors locked when she's home alone, now. But for the most part, she feels safe in her neighborhood of five years.

"I just say, there's no physical harm to me, so I'm good," she said. "I think I was more mad than frightened because I don't think the kids that did that realize the cost that's involved."

Hilary Lehman can be reached at hlehman@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2441.

Vandals disturb peace in Valrico neighborhood 04/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2010 2:57pm]
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