CHUBBUCK, Idaho — In comparison to last year, the holiday experience for the Kinney family in Chubbuck went from Griswold-esque to Grinch-like overnight.
Scott and Suzette Kinney won the Griswold award last year during Chubbuck’s annual Christmas light contest. Upping their game this year with more lights and yard ornaments drew some unwanted attention this year, however.
Suzette woke Tuesday morning to discover much of their Cole Street home yard display had been vandalized, the Idaho State Journal reported.
“At about 8 o’clock this morning I went out to grab the newspaper and I noticed that the yard was all torn up,” Suzette said. “The trees were knocked over, our mailbox was all messed up, the heads were off the snowmen, the reindeers were knocked over and banged up, and I just couldn’t believe that someone would do that.”
For more than seven hours, Scott and Suzette did their best to mend and replace many of the broken lights and ornaments, though many of the items were novelties that are irreplaceable today.
What’s more unfortunate — this isn’t the first time this year that the Kinney’s were victims of vandalism.
“The night before Thanksgiving we had everything set out but not wired yet and someone damaged some of my small trees that I put in my neighbor’s yard,” Scott said. “But last night was just ridiculous. They walked all the way through the yard just knocking stuff over and stomping on it.”
Scott continued, “I was like, man, I have to call the police because that’s some pretty serious damage.”
The bases to all the plastic trees were destroyed when they knocked them over, so Scott had to stake down some guidewires to hold them in place.
In addition to destroying a festive mailbox that lights up with a door that opens and closes, a large animated rocking horse that teeters back and forth was practically smashed to bits.
Many layers of tape and zip-ties put the lame horse back upright, but it will never rock the same, Scott said.
The Kinney family has been collecting Christmas decorations for more than 40 years and have accumulated thousands of dollars’ worth of items. This year alone they spent $700 on 94 sets of lights to wrap a 60-foot tree between the neighbor’s and their property.
“Luckily, we had many extra lights, tools and materials to rig the display for the year, but many of the items will need replaced before next year,” Scott said.
In November, Scott didn’t think the extent of the damage warranted filing a police report, but this time around he felt compelled to notify the authorities.
“The police said that they found some really great footprints in our yard and said they were able to connect them to some of the others they had investigated,” Scott said. “They took a bunch of pictures and said they were going to try and make contact with some of the suspects.”
Chubbuck Police Capt. Bill Guiberson said that unfortunately theft and vandalism of Christmas displays is something that happens every year.
“Right around December when people start putting stuff out there are people who decide they want to ruin or take it,” Guiberson said. “Whatever they are destroying or stealing, it’s very difficult to track. All we usually have are some footprints and a description of the items, but they don’t have serial numbers we can track. So, if we stop someone and they have Christmas lights in their possession it’s certainly not illegal, which does make it difficult.”
Especially if people don’t see the suspects committing the act of the crime, he added.
Scott said he turns his exterior display off every night around 11 p.m. He suspects whoever vandalized their property did it sometime after and were more than likely juveniles.
Guiberson confirmed that most of the cases previously reported or prosecuted have involved juveniles under the age of 18.
And many times, people will talk about the deal on social media, but they don’t always call the police and file a report, Guiberson added.
“When people put things of value in their yard people might feel inclined to take them,” Guiberson said. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that people can do to prevent this but happening other than making sure they don’t contaminate the scene of the crime if they are going to call us.”
One thing Guiberson has noticed more of is Gate City area residents using more personal security cameras. Though it doesn’t always deter a criminal, it can often provide law enforcement with concrete leads to investigate.
Simple lawn signs warning other individuals that the house is under video surveillance, whether cameras are installed or not, is also a sound deterrent in some instances.
“I just think it would be nice if people were aware of this type of thing so that they can watch their own displays and that if anyone has any information they can call the police,” Scott said. “The police asked me if I wanted them charged if they caught him and I said that in addition to paying to replace what was broke I want whoever did it to stand outside my house with a sign all night that says they were the ones who ruined this display for everyone else.”
"I just don’t understand it,” Suzette said.
The problem, according to Scott, is some people don’t realize how many weeks people like the Kinney’s spend decorating for the holidays.
“I literally cried this morning when I went out there and looked at it,” Scott said. “It was just devastating. I know this kind of stuff happens, but I can’t imagine that I offended anybody. We’re just grateful the damage wasn’t any worse.
"And I hope the kids who did it feel bad, but they probably don’t," he added.
Despite the damage, Suzette and her husband were in good spirits on Tuesday after putting the display back together, which they said will be fully functioning for families to enjoy.
“Thanks to duct, packaging and electrical tape, zip-ties, some string and a lot of elf work out there in the freezing cold weather, what the Grinch tried to steal from us is back in Whoville again,” Suzette said.