MOUNT AIRY - O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your . . .
broken light bulbs?
After the holiday season last year, Mount Airy administrators figured they could save a little money by leaving the strands of colored lights on the town's 25-foot Christmas tree, instead of paying a contractor to remove them and then re-string them again this year.
But earlier this year, when town workers were spring cleaning near the tree near Town Hall off Park Avenue, they discovered that scores of the bulbs had been smashed.
Some 200 of the 800 colored bulbs that illuminate the tree had been destroyed, said Mark Moxley, a town maintainance worker.
Since no bulbs higher than about 8 feet had been disturbed, town administrators suspect that the perpetrators were short, young and apparently not consumed by Christmas spirit.
"Kids out running around don't think a lot about Christmas," said Councilman Marcum Nance. "They think about finding some bulbs they can break."
Despite all the holiday lights and decorations on homes and businesses, vandalism doesn't cause that big of a headache for police.
"Vandalism usually is not associated with Christmas," said 1st Sgt.
Edwin Lashley, a spokesman at the Maryland State Police headquarters in Pikesville, Baltimore County.
"Typically it's associated a lot with Halloween. Vandalism happens during Christmas, but not that frequently," the sergeant said.
What poses more of a quandary for police is the increase of robbery, burglary and shoplifting, which go hand in hand with the feverish commerce of Christmas.
"The beauty that goes along with Christmastime pretty much stays intact," Lashley said. "A criminal's concern is that he's not going to gain from destruction of property or decorations, but rather from depriving others of their belongings."
People are urged to use caution when shopping, Lashley said, by not shopping alone, avoiding dark areas of malls and parking lots, keeping merchandise out of sight in homes and cars, and not carrying large amounts of cash.
Mount Airy's Christmas tree was easily restored to its former brilliance after Moxley installed about $65 worth of new bulbs.
But when the holidays end, the lower bulbs will be removed from their sockets, he said, and the lower strands will be wrapped up higher in the tree.