Politically motivated vandalism called minimal

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 21, 2004

Despite the rancorous tone for this year’s election, Brookhavenand Lincoln County law enforcement officials say mischievouspolitical sign activity has been minimal.

“We haven’t received any complaints on political signs,” saidBrookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson.

Lincoln County Sheriff Wiley Calcote acknowledged someoccasional problems with mailbox vandalism. Like Henderson,however, he said political sign problems were limited.

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“As far as political signs, we haven’t been having any problemswith that,” the sheriff said.

Big Creek Drive residents Sydnette and Tony McNeese, however,believe they were victimized for their support of Democratpresidential candidate Sen. John Kerry. Their mailbox wasvandalized two weeks ago when bottle rockets were set offinside.

And then Sunday, a Kerry-Edwards political sign was defaced and”I hate Kerry” was scrawled on the mailbox and “George Bush” on thenewspaper tube, she said.

Sydnette said her parents’ mailbox, also on Big Creek Drive, wasalso vandalized. She said she knows of no other residents on theroad with Kerry political signs in their yard.

The sheriff’s department was contacted and came out to make areport.

“They have been extra patrolling, but it’s hard to catch,”McNeese said.

McNeese said the vandalism “really ticks me off.” She saideverybody is entitled to an opinion and should be left alone forexpressing it.

“It’s a free country,” McNeese said. “That’s what the war isIraq is supposed to be about, to let them in that country vote forwho they want to vote for. We can’t even put out a sign at themailbox without feeling unsafe.”

McNeese acknowledged that only the mailbox and paper tube wereinvolved.

“But it’s our expense and effort to replace,” McNeese said.”It’s wrong to do that to other people’s property.”

Calcote said he was unsure of a motive in the Big Creek Drivecase. As with other mailbox vandalism, the sheriff indicated itcould be kids out and about instead of being “at home where theybelong.”

“We do everything we can to catch them,” Calcote said.

Calcote mentioned a group of young people who had vandalized 18mailboxes in the West Lincoln area a few months ago. He said thegroup had to replace each of the boxes.

Calcote and Henderson cautioned about the seriousness oftampering with mailboxes.

“That can be looked at under federal statutes,” the chief said.”It’s not just foolishness.”

As far as political signs, Calcote and Henderson said they havenot seen many around the county and city. Henderson said the oneshe has seen have been mostly in support of President Bush and incertain areas of town.

“I’ve basically seen them only in Ward Four … and some in WardFive,” the chief said.

While jokingly making no guarantees about possible activity onHalloween, Henderson reported no sign-related problems.

“I’d like to see it stay that way,” he said.

Henderson said he believes the limited number of signs was notdue to lack of interest. He said he has heard people voice theiropinions on the election.

“They’re just not going to the point of putting out signs,”Henderson said.