What to Know
Multiple Christmas light wires were cut in Sea Girt, New Jersey, days before a popular tree lighting ceremony
The town suspected young vandals may be to blame and police said they were keeping an eye on the tree
Saturday morning they spotted a squirrel eating the wires; a photo shows it casually nibbling away
The borough of Sea Girt, New Jersey, holds a wildly popular tree lighting ceremony every year — an event threatened earlier this week when officials found wires to Christmas display lights severed by what they believed to be vandals.
Crews raced to repair and replace the damaged wires so Friday’s Christmas tree lighting could go on as scheduled. Meanwhile, police planned to keep a close eye on the display in an effort to catch those responsible.
But after the tree lighting ceremony, police said they caught the perpetrator in the act Saturday morning. They released a photo of the suspected vandal: It walks on four legs and has a penchant for eating acorns and ticking off dogs.
Indeed, it’s a squirrel police believe has been cutting the wires — a far cry from the youthful miscreants the town had suspected.
Police said they were unable to catch the tree-dwelling rodent and that the Christmas display will now be under constant surveillance to make sure the critter doesn’t strike yet again.
Earlier this week, resident John Shibels was surprised to hear of possible vandalism in the borough. “This is Mayberry RFD, probably the first vandalism we've had in 10 years,” he said.
Sea Girt police Captain Justin Macko showed NBC 4 New York some of the damaged wires Thursday.
“There's several cuts throughout everything if we lay them all out,” Macko said at the time.
Some wires were left severed at a Santa and reindeer display by the library. More snipped wires were found at the Christmas tree a short distance away.
“It tells me they definitely wanted to do it and they want to accomplish their goal of making sure the lights don't work,” Macko said.
The discovery of the cut wires came about a week after pumpkins were smashed outside Fratello's Italian Restaurant. The owner, Chris DeCresce, wasn’t ready to make a connection between the two incidents when he spoke with NBC 4 Thursday, but he said youngsters may be to blame.
“It sounds like a young act to me,” he said.
Now that Sea Girt has found the alleged culprit, it’s a matter of keeping the Christmas display safe from the wire-hungry squirrel still on the loose. Meanwhile, the pumpkin-smashers have not been found.