Southeast Ohio authorities discuss campaign sign theft, damaging

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 6:08 PM EDT
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MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - Authorities in our region of Ohio are starting to take notice of social media posts regarding stolen or damaged campaign signs, but they aren’t actually hearing many reports of it happening in our area.

Marietta Police Captain Aaron Nedeff says he only knows of one report involving a campaign sign being stolen or damaged this year. In fact, officers haven’t had to deal with signs much in any way this year. Nedeff says the police usually collect several signs that have been blown into the road by wind, but they haven’t even had to do that yet.

Washington County Chief Deputy Mark Warden says the sheriff’s department hasn’t taken very many reports of signs being stolen, but he has personally seen several accounts of stolen or damaged signs online.

In neighboring Athens County, Sheriff Rodney Smith says there has been a recent string of reportedly damaged or stolen campaign signs, mainly in the northwestern parts of the county. However, he says the amount of reports taken hasn’t been much higher than in previous election years.

“It’s bad every four years, every presidential election. We get a lot of complaints of people stealing political signs or damaging political signs, tearing them down. It’s probably not any worse than any other general election,” said Smith.

Though reports of damaged or stolen signs seem to be average or below, Chief Deputy Warden says that doesn’t mean its not happening more often.

“We are seeing a lot on social media,” said Warden. “It’s a possibility [that they aren’t getting reported]. We’re just not seeing the amount on social media being reported.”

With that said, officials don’t want anyone taking preventative measures like booby trapping signs.

“We do not encourage that, we simply do not encourage that kind of activity,” said Warden. “If somebody is committing a theft, what we encourage the public to do, is if they’re able to, number one, if they know who they are, identify them. If there’s a vehicle get a description of the vehicle, get a license plate, something of that nature, call immediately. That way our officers can get out there and start an investigation rather quickly.”

Warden says stealing a sign would likely result in a misdemeanor theft charge. However, he warns that the situation could easily escalate, especially if the would-be thief is caught by a homeowner.

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