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Is There a Political Yard Sign Bandit in Highland Park?

One resident has had eight Barack Obama signs stolen from her front yard. A Mitt Romney supporter had his sign taken down last week. What compels people to vandalize yard signs?

Last week, a Highland Park resident was driving his children home from school when he saw a woman knock down two political yard signs on the front yard of a Sheridan Road home.

"Dad, can she do that?" one of his kids asked.

The answer is no, she can't. But she did, and, during this heated election season, she's not the only one.

Political bullying

Highland Park residents reported seven stolen political yard signs in the last week, according to this week's police report. 

"It upsets me that somebody thinks rather than pulling the lever in the voting booth it's better to pull down the sign they don't like," said Stuart Cohen, the resident who had his Mitt Romney and Robert Dold signs pulled down last week. "It's not like I was promoting some wild, racist party… just one of our major political candidates."

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Cohen put the signs back up after the incident occurred. Residents like Betsy Brint, however, have not had that luxury. She's replaced eight Barack Obama signs since the campaign began.

"[The Obama campaign] loves me because I keep ordering more and more," she said.

Brint wrote a column for Patch as an open letter to her yard sign vandal. In one instance, the yard sign wasn't just stolen -- someone shredded it and left the remains on her lawn. In another instance, someone replaced an Obama magnet on her car with one supporting Romney.

"I think it's political bullying," Brint said.

Not easily recovered

The police investigate sign thefts as though they were any other theft, according to Deputy Police Chief Dave Schwarz.

However, it's pretty easy to snag a sign from a front yard without getting caught.

"Unless we have somebody who saw something, it can be difficult to locate the offender," Schwarz said. 

Once the signs are taken, Schwarz said they're rarely recovered. Additional patrols are dispatched to areas experiencing thefts, and residents who have been targeted are encouraged to set up a video camera to monitor their yard at night.

Schwarz pointed out the amount of yard signs reported stolen make up only a small portion of the total number of yard signs throughout Highland Park.

"We have hundreds of these signs in town, so overall the occurrence is pretty minute," Schwarz said.

It's the economy, thief!

Though Brint and Cohen disagree about who they're supporting, they've drawn the same conclusion about why this election has inspired yard sign thefts: the hurting economy.

Brint wonders if people feel more vulnerable this election because of the recession. Cohen feels similarly.

But the fact that people would go through the effort to steal their yard signs seems to be inspiring both residents to make sure they keep replacing them.

"It enters into a political conversation without any words being said," Brint said about what yard signs accomplish. And the yard sign thefts, she continues, "makes it even more important to say what I believe."

Have you had your political yard sign stolen or vandalized? Leave a comment below.

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Eric Lewis November 01, 2012 at 03:33 PM
This leads to an idea for an invention similar to exploding die packs to help deter bank robbers. I would like to see exploding die packs attached to political signs to help deter sign THIEVES.
Jeff Wheeler November 01, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Seriously, taking signs off someone's yard is a crime? Putting the signs up should be a crime. If you want to put a sign up go get a permit like all the business owners must do -- or follow the rules regarding signs (you ever wonder why those Real Estate signs are so small in Lake Forest -- it's their sign law). I'm all for the 1st Amendment and displaying your preference for a particular candidate .... but wasting the police's time to file a report and investigate the theft of 7 signs, when you really should just have one sign, is a ridiculous waste of the police's time dispatching "extra patrol vehicles" because someone stole your signs. Get over it.
sibuna November 01, 2012 at 03:43 PM
"What compels people to vandalize yard signs?" They're compelled by the absurd amount of signs littering the landscapes to the point it's overkill. High-five to whomever is stealing the signs! Good riddance.
The Q November 01, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Be nice when this is over on Tuesday!
The Q November 01, 2012 at 03:47 PM
let me guess your a democrat.....how about we electrify them?
Jeff Wheeler November 01, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Unfortunately, I stand corrected. Highland Park does not have a limit on Political Signs in one's yard ... http://www.cityhpil.com/documents/21/31/50/ART20%20SIGNS.PDF (see page 150-XX 11, PDF Page 11). So let's change the law to ONE SIGN PER CANDIDATE. This would avoid unnecessary police patrolling their precious yard signs people apparently donate a lot of money to obtain. Can most of us agree the City can make this change without many complaints?
Bryce Robertson November 01, 2012 at 05:56 PM
TJ - this came up in the mayoral election in 2011 and as far as I was aware, was supposed to be changed as a pledge made by both candidates as well as a number of city council candidates. Hope to see the change made... As far as wasting police time, a theft is a theft... and frankly, people aren't tearing these signs down because they're littering the neighborhood. They're tearing them down because they don't agree with the candidate's views, and don't want them to win. It's arguably a petty way of disenfranchisement.
alan donahue November 01, 2012 at 09:39 PM
You're right. Thank God we kept Guantanamo open. We should send all sign thieves to a political detention in Cuba.

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