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Thefts Put a Damper on Holiday Spirit : Christmas: About a dozen residents of Reese Road in Torrance have reported missing garlands, candy canes, soldiers and snowflakes.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When the Christmas garland disappeared from the front fence, the Dixons of Reese Road in south Torrance got angry. Then they decided to protest.

Joe Dixon composed a simple sign on his computer, printed it out and tacked it on the fence where the 25-foot green plastic garland with its red ribbons once hung.

“Decorations stolen,” it read.

Neighbors started stopping by. They said their decorations, too, were missing. They asked for copies of the sign.

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So the Dixon family printed more signs, glued them on cardboard, stapled them on stakes and distributed them to other victims in this secluded neighborhood known as Seaside Ranchos.

The result is a bittersweet commentary on modern-day life, as about a dozen “Decorations stolen” signs protrude from lawns filled with holiday ornamentation.

Seaside Ranchos is famous in Torrance for its lavish Christmas decorations. More than 200 residents literally wrap their homes and shrubbery in holiday lights. Santas, soldiers, Madonnas and candy canes adorn the lawns. Trees are festooned with streamers of tiny white lights, creating floating canopies of glitter along the roadways.

And the people come. Lines of cars glide bumper-to-bumper through the neighborhood at night, as children gape out the windows at this fantasy-like splendor.

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“It’s like living in a Currier & Ives postcard for a couple of weeks,” Sheila Dixon said.

Then, about 2 1/2 weeks ago, the Dixons’ garland disappeared. So did Jane Hebson’s wreath. So did 14 hand-painted candy canes, complete with red stripes and green bows, from the Pamela and Larry Grodin house.

At the Theodore Thomas house, a pair of five-foot toy soldiers were whisked away. And snowflakes and stars vanished from the front-yard display at Donald W. and Barbara Huey’s home on Reese Road. The family was thankful it did not yet have its tumbleweed snowmen on display.

In all, during a three-day period in late November, decorations were stolen from 15 to 20 homes, residents said.

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Several of the residents said they reported the thefts to Torrance police.

But Torrance Police Sgt. Ronald Traber said Thursday that as far as he knows, no formal police reports have been filed regarding lost Christmas decorations in the Seaside Ranchos area. “The impression I’ve gotten so far is that it’s more of an annoyance than a problem,” he said.

Sheila Dixon, who said she notified the police when her garland disappeared, disputed Traber’s comment. “This is a major problem to us,” she said.

At the request of Torrance Mayor Katy Geissert, police patrols in the area have been asked to be on the alert for the thieves. “I certainly hope whoever was responsible has the message that they’re the most unpopular people in town,” Geissert said.

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The homeowners seem less angry than disillusioned. The thieves, they say, have tarnished the mood of the yearly display.

“They’ve kind of broken our spirit. You do these things for other people to enjoy, and somebody comes along and ruins it,” said Hebson, who said she lost at least $100 worth of decorations.

Sheila Christenson, secretary of the Seaside Homeowners Assn., said of the thieves: “You kind of wonder why they do it. My feeling is, they’re taking things they can sell.”

Dixon said that she’d like to see an increase in neighborhood police patrols, “basically for safety.” The heavy traffic drawn by the Christmas displays can be dangerous since many drivers turn off their headlights, apparently so they can get a better view of the decorations, she said. She encourages people to visit after Christmas Day, when, she said, the traffic lessens.

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Hebson and a friend recently distributed a letter to their neighbors, asking if homeowners would be willing to contribute $10 apiece to hire an off-duty police officer to patrol the area.

So far, Hebson said, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. But she is not sure enough time remains to hire a guard this year.

And she worries about the future of the Seaside Ranchos displays.

“One year, five or 10 houses won’t do it, and the next year, 15 or 20 won’t do it,” she said. “We don’t want to lose our tradition.”

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