Political sign thefts noticed around area

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spring always brings outcroppings of bright colors in theoutdoors, whether it be blooming flowers, strappy sundresses, orthe festive patches of election signs that adorn yards and cornersall over Lincoln County until just after the elections inAugust.

The signs are the most visible elements of local elections. Andwhile they may just seem like a piece of plastic or posterboard,they can land sign thieves in more trouble than they might bargainfor.

“We’d treat it like petit larceny,” said Police Chief PapHenderson, who said the candidate would have to file the charges.”If we saw them doing it, we’d stop the individual and get theirname, address and information for our records, then notify thecandidate of who did it.”

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Henderson said the charges could get heavier depending on whatwas done to the signs.

“If they’re torn up, bent or broken, it could be consideredmalicious mischief,” he said. “But we would let the judge decide onthat.”

Of course, the phenomena of disappearing campaign signs is notone that is just beginning to occur, nor is it one that is isolatedto Lincoln County.

“I’m not sure of the penalties, but we’ve been having thisproblem for a long time,” said Elections Commissioner JohnHightower. “It’s happening in Jackson and every place else,too.”

As a matter of fact, the disappearance of elections signs isalmost to be expected, though it’s never acceptable, according tosome officials.

“Well, it does happen every election,” said Lincoln CountyCircuit Clerk Terri Lynn Watkins. “But it shouldn’t.”

Of course, other things can happen to the signs, too. Because oftheir very nature, they often fall victim to the elements.Sometimes they’re even just lost to neighborhood kids.

Also, within the city, ordinance #169-2002 says signs may not beplaced upon city property, but they may be placed on privateproperty with the permission of the property owner. The ordinancestates that if a sign is placed improperly, the city is authorizedto remove the sign, even if it is placed on private property.

“So basically the most important thing is to get permission,”said Henderson. “A lot of these signs have been put up wherecandidates haven’t gotten permission.”

And according to Henderson, the ordinance, and City Clerk MikeJinks, those signs can be taken down by the city.

If a candidate’s signs are taken up because they’re placedimproperly, they are stacked behind the police station, and thecandidate is notified that they are there.

“If they want to pick them up, they can,” said Henderson.”Otherwise, they’ll be destroyed after a certain amount oftime.”

Henderson also said most people are aware of what is cityproperty and what is private property.

“But if someone has any questions about it, they can contact thecity about what is private and public, or they can call us here atthe police station,” he said.