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Vandals strike Little League concession stand a 3rd time

Expensive locks fail to deter the culprits, who break through wood and drywall to get in.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- Chuck Accetta recently spent $443 on heavy-duty deadbolts to secure the Meadowlawn Little League concession stand.

They worked too well.

Vandals tried to break into the concession stand sometime last week, but they couldn't cut through the locks, even with the tools they brought along. The windows were protected with metal bars, installed after the last break-in two years ago.

So the culprits broke into the adjacent scoring box, then smashed through the wood and drywall separating it from the concession stand.

"It would have been cheaper for me if they would have just busted the dead bolt," Accetta said Saturday afternoon as he surveyed thousands of dollars in damage at his stand, which has been vandalized three times in four years.

The intruders didn't take any money, but they broke the ice machine, tossed onto the floor a computer that was recently donated to the league and overturned furniture.

Then they sprayed fire extinguishers throughout the building, leaving a chalky residue on everything: the grills, the cash register buttons, the American flag the league flies outside during baseball and softball games.

They cut their way into the lightweight safe, which contained no money. In fact, the vandals overlooked the only money inside the concession stand: $8 tucked into the cash register.

Thieves first broke into the league's concession stand, near Northeast High School, in 1998, stealing food, destroying a refrigerator and plugging sinks to flood the building. The next year the stand was hit again, and vandals ruined thousands of dollars worth of food and broke the stand's sprinkler system.

At the time, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays donated two truckloads of concession fare, such as hot dogs and popcorn, to help the league.

"This time I'm not looking for handouts from anybody," said Accetta, 43, who works as a machinist and volunteers as president of the Meadowlawn Little League. His 8-year-old son, Nicholas, plays baseball on one of the teams. "I've been through it before. We'll get through it."

Weary of turning in burglary claims to the insurance company, Accetta said he and four or five other Little League dads will probably clean the concession stand and pay for equipment repairs or replacements themselves.

They don't expect to catch the vandals. "From experience, this being the third time, we're not going to find who did it," he said.

Other leagues work out partnerships with cities that allow them to pay reduced fees for better facilities. Accetta said he might approach the city of St. Petersburg and ask for a similar arrangement for the 160 children who play for his league, which includes 13 softball and baseball teams.

The league pays about $800 a month to power the lights for night games in the summer. A truckload of clay to prepare the fields for playing costs $400, and the fields needed four truckloads to be ready for tournament play.

With all those expenses, Accetta has some words of advice for would-be thieves.

"Little leagues are a bad idea to rob," Accetta said. "They're usually broke."

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