You know the saying “Idle hands are the devil's playground.” Apparently, 35 golf courses, plenty of other amenities and dozens of social clubs (aka taverns) are not enough to divert some residents at the gigantic, age-restricted Florida playground known as The Villages from a life of crime.
Earlier this week, area police raided a home at The Villages on a tip from a neighbor about a possible illicit drug operation. What they found, however, was not only a cache of methamphetamine and heroin, but also a golf cart chop shop. One of the five arrested said he had been stealing 30 golf carts per month. The arrests follow others a few months ago for golf cart thefts in The Villages.
The community, which is known for its inexpensive housing and high level of amenities, is growing at one of the fastest rates in the country, with well over 100,000 residents inside the boundaries. Television ads that feature the squeaky clean Arnold Palmer, may he rest in peace, and Nancy Lopez make The Villages seem a hotbed of activities and safety. But like cities of a similar size, and despite the fact the community is restricted to “mature” folks only (age 55+), The Villages has its issues that include theft as well as a staggeringly high percentage of socially transmitted diseases. You would think old folks would have the experience to protect themselves, as well as their golf carts, some of them valued at $25,000 and more. Apparently not.
The news about The Villages is in stark contrast to a stop my wife and I made 20 years ago to visit friends of my parents in a large Florida retirement community (no golf). The wife told us we could only stay for a couple of hours because the couple was headed to a concert on site early that evening and they needed to get there early to buy tickets.
“Aren’t you afraid they will be sold out?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, “we can always buy a ticket from one of the residents.”
“A scalper?” I asked. “How much do tickets cost at the box office?”
“$2.50,” she responded.
“How much do they scalp them for?” I asked.
“We can usually get them for $3.00.”
Now that is not much of a living, but at least it’s an honest one.
You can read an amusing article about The Villages’ crime spree at Deadspin.