Local News

Search narrows for suspected window vandals

SEBRING - Authorities following up leads in last week’s vandalism incidents were looking Wednesday for up to three people of interest, including possibly two adults and a juvenile.
Sources said that they could not comment on any details because no one had been arrested as of Wednesday afternoon.
The investigation began after more than 60 windows were shot out at businesses in Lake Placid, Sebring and Avon Park.
As of Wednesday, the number totaled 74, 25 in Lake Placid, 28 in Sebring and 21 in unincorporated Highlands County and Avon Park, authorities said.
The shootings were random and no homes were hit, authorities said.
Businesses hit were on U.S. 27, Highway 17, and DeSoto Road. Windows from two businesses at the Lakeshore Mall, J.C. Penny’s and Belk, were also hit.
So far authorities have yet to determine the motivations for the shootings or what prompted the spree during the weekend.
Children’s Museum of the Highlands was probably one of the first victims to have windows repaired.
Linda Crowder, director, said they were able to find someone to fix the windows very quickly.
But, she said, for a while they blocked off the area where the glass was broke.
The museum was one of several organizations to receive help from the Community Redevelopment Agency, which temporarily loosened requirements for grants this week to help the businesses. The agency offered to cover up to 60 percent of the damage.
Crowder said the museum had about $442 in damages.
She said the help from the agency was critical, considering that donations to the nonprofit dropped this year because of the economy.
“We’ve been trying to pinch our pennies, she said.
Robin Hinote, director of the agency, said that many or all of the businesses have insurance, but in these types of cases would receive no benefit because of the deductibles.
Other businesses or organizations receiving or expecting to receive help from the CRA were Dogtown USA, Brenner Pottery and Crafts, Boys and Girls Clubs of Highlands County, and Molly’s Treats II, Custom Cakes and Ice Cream.
Kristen Knowles, the owner of Molly’s Treats II, was also appreciative of the CRA.
“As a small business owner and being new, the damage was heartbreaking,” Knowles said. “The cost was as much as a month’s rent. I received an email from Robin with the CRA in Sebring yesterday and was informed they were waiving some of the legal hoops I would need to jump through and were going to reimburse me 60 percent of my out-of-pocket expense. I am amazed.
“I am from Broward County and my mother has had businesses down there and she said she never had a city organization step up like the CRA did for the city of Sebring. We were in Orlando when this happened and the other business owners stepped up and took care of our busted window and secured our store,” Knowles said.

The Avon Park Community Redevelopment Agency also is expected to offer help to damaged businesses in the CRA. But Maria Sutherland, director, said that she knows of only one damaged business, Cookies Furniture, that is in the CRA.


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