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Campaign sign theft has residents steaming

Both Democrats and Republicans report removal of campaign signs from yards, calls for thefts to stop

Sue King is angry.

She went outside of her Perkinstown Ave. home at noon and her sign supporting Joe Biden for president was in front of her house. She went back outside a little after 2 p.m. and the sign was gone. This was the second sign that has been taken from her property in recent weeks.

“What bothers me most is the freedom of speech,” King said, noting that she respects her neighbors who have Donald Trump signs and flags in their yards and has no problem talking to them.

“Everybody should have their opinion in a democracy,” King said, “Everyone should have an open mind and respect everyone else’s opinion.”

“It gets to be a socialistic kind of thing when you’re getting told who you can support,” King said, channeling the lessons learned during her career as a history teacher.

King said she has not been the only one to have signs stolen. She said among local democrats there have been reports of signs being taken from yards in the city of Medford and in rural western Taylor County.

Rhonda Lewan of Sheldon also has concerns about theft of signs.

“When you look at the political signs around the area, it appears that one person is represented much more than the other. This may be the case or it may be that Biden signs have been disappearing quite frequently from Taylor County and surrounding counties. There have been many Biden signs stolen from people’s lawns in the dead of night. This is not youngsters pulling pranks but cowards sneaking on their neighbors property and stealing their possessions.,” Lewan wrote in a letter to The Star News.

“I feel strongly about my candidate and proudly display Biden’s campaign signs. Maybe the other candidate does not provide enough confidence in his platform and ability to elicit this type of confidence and some of his followers find it necessary to steal from their neighbors,” Lewan stated.

The reported sign thefts have not been limited to just one party in this election, but have caused headaches on both sides of the political aisle.

Taylor County Republican Party chairman Mike Bub reports that about 27 Donald Trump signs have been taken this year. He said the worst is when a sign is destroyed.

He said what many people don’t realize is that the cost to replace the party-issued signs comes from local party funds. In many cases, Bub notes people purchase the signs and flags out of their own pockets.

He said people are hesitant to call law enforcement about signs going missing because of the challenge of proving a theft occurred. He said some have gone so far as to use video surveillance to try and catch anyone attempting to steal a sign from their yards.

Bub said he wishes whoever was taking signs would stop.

“I have heard a bit of talk in the community about this but we have only had three or four complaints called in officially,” said sheriff Larry Woebbeking. He noted that a few weeks ago, there was a rash of “Back the Blue” signs being removed or taken, but so far said there have only been a handful of complaints about political signs being taken.

Medford police chief Chad Liske said he was unaware of any reported incidents in the city of Medford other than the “Back the Blue” signs that were being taken. He said there was an incident of a group of kids removing a street sign and tossing it in a stairwell on Division St. near Main St., but said to his knowledge no political signs have been reported stolen in the city.

Liske said that individuals who do steal signs have the potential to face the following charges: Damage to Property – 943.01(1) Whoever intentionally causes damage to any physical property of another without the person’s consent is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Theft of Property – 943.20(1)(a) Intentionally takes and carries away, uses, transfers, conceals, or retains possession of movable property of another without the other’s consent and with intent to deprive the owner permanently of possession of such property. Depending on the value theft may be either a misdemeanor or felony For those such as King who say their signs have gone missing, the concern is less about the value of the signs, but more about having their freedom of speech taken away.

“This is a free country and everyone has a right to their opinion. The best way to uphold this right is to vote,” Lewan stated.