When out on Richard Vincenti’s lawn there arose such a clatter, his Ring doorbell notified him what was the matter. Vandals had struck his front yard and destroyed an inflatable Santa Claus.
His wife called the police and Aberdeen Police Officer Cynthia Mowery responded to their home just after 5:30 p.m. Dec. 8.
Vincenti said his two sons, ages 6 and 2, were devastated by the trashed decoration. They were standing in the doorway while Vincenti talked to the officer about what had happened. Mowery took notice.
“When I was taking the report, I looked up and their [older] son was standing there looking out. It was so sad, he looked so upset, and that weighed on my heart all night,” Mowrey said. “When I woke up the next morning, I just knew what I had to do.”
So she went shopping, using her own money to replace the Christmas decorations the Vincentis had lost.
The rest of her squad got on board and a few days later, with Vincenti’s permission, set up the decorations in the middle of the night so that the children would be surprised the next morning.
Like the vandalism, the decorating was captured on Vincenti’s Ring doorbell. The officers set up a lighted Santa in his sleigh with reindeer, a North Pole mailbox, a pommel horse, elf and other decorations, and left two stuffed animals on the porch for the boys.
"It was a group effort, my whole squad went over there," Mowery said.
The Vincentis, like many families this time of year, have an Elf on the Shelf that moves each night leading up to Christmas.
When their oldest son woke up the morning after the officers visited, he questioned his dad why the elf was perched on a window, peering out into their front yard.
“I said ‘let’s open the door and find out what he’s looking at’ and we went out there and he was just ecstatic, losing his mind because there’s all these decorations after the one decoration had previously been removed,” Vincenti said.
"I don't know how to explain the happiness that they had. They were very grateful."
Mowery is in her first year working as a police officer. She previously had worked for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office as a civilian member of its safe streets initiative and the gang suppression unit.
"I've always had an interest in the field of law ... when I accepted the position at the Harford County Sheriff's Office, it sparked that love of law enforcement again," she said.
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“My husband and I talked, our children were grown and out of the house, it was a good time to go ahead and make it happen,” she said of becoming a police officer later in life.
The Aberdeen Department highlighted Mowery's good deed on its social media, but Mowery said recognition wasn't what she was looking for.
“My goal was to try to help,” she said. “I’m a mom, I’m a grandmom. I saw how upset that family was and I just wanted to help them. And if it helps with the way the perception is with law enforcement, that’s fantastic. Aberdeen has a great agency, we work with a lot of people that care about the community."
Vincenti and his family are grateful for her and the police department.
"By no means did I expect for this to happen, extremely appreciative that it did,"he said. "[Officer Mowery] went well out of her way and didn't need to.
“She’s one of a kind.”
No similar incidents of vandalism of holiday decorations have been reported in Aberdeen, department spokesman Lt. Will Reiber said. No suspects have been identified in this case and anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Officer Mowery at 410-272-2121.