Official: Thefts, vandalism ‘frustrating’

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Election time brings campaign signs, andlocal authorities are dealing with the various issues of having thesigns temporarily invade the county.

    Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said his department is lookinginto numerous reports of sign vandalism and sign theft.

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    “We’ve had different reports of vandalism and different reports oftheft from several candidates,” he said.

    It’s a problem that comes up every election, said the sheriff.

    “These problems are about the same as the last election, maybe alittle bigger,” he said.

    Rushing, who is seeking re-election, said he wasn’t immune from thesign troublemakers.

    “I’ve had several signs stolen myself,” he said.

    He mentioned one instance where his department found one of hissigns, along with many other candidates’ signs, in a dump site onSouth Washington Street in Brookhaven.

    “It’s frustrating,” he said. “They’re expensive, plus you spend agood bit of time trying to get them out to folks.”

    Local sign-makers estimate that the signs, depending on their sizeand design, can cost a candidate anywhere from $5 to $250 orhigher.

    Rushing said his department takes each report of sign vandalism ortheft seriously.

    “We try to run down every complaint, but it’s tough because we’veusually got nothing to go on,” he said.

    The sheriff said that if a person is caught vandalizing or stealingsigns, they will face penalties.

    “They could be charged with vandalism, according to how much damagethey did, or petit larceny for theft,” he said.

    Although those charges are misdemeanors, they can carry hefty finesand jail time.

    “They both carry a possibility of jail time and fines,” saidRushing, who urged anyone with information on sign vandalism ortheft to report it to the sheriff’s department at 601-833-5231.

    In addition to signs being stolen or vandalized, authorities arealso dealing with candidates placing the signs in improperareas.

    According to a press release from the Mississippi Department ofTransportation, illegally placed campaign signs are a big issue insouth Mississippi, especially signs that are placed in statehighway rights-of-way.

    The release said that signs cannot be placed along therights-of-way, which “varies by location and includes the drivinglanes, shoulders, mowed areas and potentially may reach distancesof 300 feet or more from the centerline of the driving lanes,”according to the release.

    Signs that are in violation of these guidelines will be removed,transported to the nearest maintenance facility and prepared fordisposal, said the release.

    Lincoln County Board of Supervisors President Doug Moak said thatlocal road officials are dealing with campaign sign problems asthey arise.

    “I haven’t had that many problems,” said Moak, who added that hehasn’t heard many complaints from his fellow supervisors,either.

    Moak said he’s instructed his workers to move any signs that are inviolation of rights-of-way laws.

    “They just pick them up and move them back,” said Moak.

    Moak said he and his fellow supervisors will continue to be onwatch for any signs that violate the law.

    “It might get worse as we get closer to the election,” said theboard president. “We’ll just have to watch out for them.”