CLEVELAND (WJW)– In the midst of what seems to be a very divisive political season, the theft of political yard signs has some taking extreme measures to destroy and to protect them.
Hinckley resident Barbara Cummings said she has never put political signs in her yard before, but this year, she decided to place two signs on her property supporting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
One was stolen. She said she didn’t give it much thought until a couple of days later. She was startled by the lengths someone went through to destroy the other.
“I was in the living room and I saw a huge flash and heard a big boom. It was so loud it sounded like it was right outside my living room window,” Cummings said.
“Around here you hear people firing weapons at targets and so forth, but nothing like this; it was a definite explosion,” said Jerry Dolcini, a neighbor. He heard the blast from his nearby garage and raced over believing a house might have exploded.
“I looked and there was the mailbox blown apart, charred. And there were pieces of my remaining political sign charred and torn and ripped. What it looked like was somebody had taken the sign, either ripped it up or folded it, put it in the mailbox and blew it up,” Cummings said.
Hinkley Police Chief David Centner said his department is investigating and can, at the very least, file theft charges for the crime.
Centner said he has not had many complaints of yard sign thefts, but those his department has taken are equally divided among signs supporting the candidates of both parties.
In Hudson, Dan Carnanan is a proud supporter of President Donald Trump. In his yard, he has displayed several signs supporting the incumbent for the 2020 election.
While Carnahan said he had signs stolen in the past, a theft this year has him protecting one of his signs with an electric fence. A sign warns trespassers that the fence is charged with 10,000 volts.
“It actually is an animal fence and it says 10,000 volts and it actually is about 10,000 volts. But it’s for cattle, it’s a cattle fence so it’s only a burst and then it releases,” Carnahan said.
“It’s happened before and, you know, I kind of thought it’s probably just some kids. But unfortunately, they need to understand that you are violating, you are trespassing on somebody’s property,” Carnahan said.
“I’ve had them, you know, damage a sign before. I’ve had people, I had a lighted sign one time and they just ripped the light, pulled the light out and stomped on it,” he said.
The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office posted several photos of people in the act of stealing signs. In one case, it was able to identify the thief, but the property owner decided not to press charges.
“Many residents have taken different measures to secure these signs by using trail cameras and other surveillance techniques,” said Wayne County Sheriff’s Office Cpt. Doug Hunter.
“It is a crime and actually, two different crimes can be prosecuted in these types of cases,” Hunter said. “It’s a charge of theft here in Ohio to take these types of signs. Likewise, if you trespass onto somebody else’s property to commit a crime that is considered criminal trespass and they could face charges for both of these offenses.”
Many thefts are not reported, but the Wayne County Democratic and Republican parties are both uniting with a message asking their supporters not to steal or vandalize yard signs.
The Democratic party posted a surveillance photo of someone taking a baseball bat to a Biden sign, offering a reward of $500 to help identify them.
“I think people are just very reluctant to say anything anymore because they are afraid of retribution. You see this happening people can’t even go out and dine in public anymore without someone coming up and getting in their face,” Carnahan said.
“People just want to be heard and unfortunately, blowing up somebody’s mailbox doesn’t make you heard,” Cummings said. She suggested the best way to express your political preference is to vote.
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