Signs, signs, everywhere signs

But many of them are being reported stolen or defaced

Residents have been reporting high rates of political yard signs being stolen or damaged. (Caitlin Yamada/ THe Union)
Residents have been reporting high rates of political yard signs being stolen or damaged. (Caitlin Yamada/ THe Union)

With election season in full swing, area residents are having problems with political signs disappearing from their yards and being defaced.

Signs from both parties are being targeted. Although anecdotally, there are more reports of Democrat signs being stolen in Jefferson County and Republican signs vanishing in Washington County.

Susie Drish, Chair of Jefferson County Democratic Party said there are reports of many Biden signs being defaced and stolen in the area.

“It’s terrible, just terrible,” Drish said. “After Nov.4 we all have to live here so we should be cordial.”

Senior advisor to the Trump Campaign Eric Branstad said during a visit to Washington that the theft and destruction is widespread across the state, especially in Johnson and Linn Counties.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve seen a lot of the vandalism and a lot of that hate,” Branstad said. “It’s insensitive and hurtful.”

Police in Washington and Columbus Junction have been receiving calls of yard sign theft and vandalism.

Washington Police Chief Jim Lester said many times the situation is reported a day or two later, making it difficult to find a culprit.

Since June, there have been around 10 reports of political signs being stolen, knocked down, thrown in the street and defaced.

Stealing or defacing a political yard sign has legal repercussions.

Lester said the individuals can be charged with theft, vandalism, trespassing, criminal mishits or suspicious activity.

A report in July resulted in a fifth-degree theft charge, Lester said.

Columbus Junction Police Chief Donnie Orr said there are a few instances under investigation. Overall, he said there are few reported, and most of what the department hears is word-of-mouth reports.

It’s not just happening in Southeast Iowa.

Sign thefts are being reported across the United States. The Wall Street Journal recently reported sign-stealing ramps up every four years ahead of presidential elections. This time around, many more people have home cameras.

Brian Moore, an Army veteran living in Shelby, Ohio, said his 6-foot by 10-foot Trump sign was stolen by a group of teenagers. He reported it to the police and posted a video of the incident online. One of the fathers recognized his son and made him return the sign, according to the newspaper.

Martin Lubell, a 57-year-old genetic scientist in Wooster, Ohio, said eight of his Biden yard signs have been nabbed. They scrolled through their Nest camera footage, found the clip and later reported it to the police, though the video was too grainy to identify suspects.

Without video or suspects, police said it is difficult to charge individuals for the offense. They still recommend reporting any theft or vandalism.