Reports of stolen and vandalized campaign signs increase in Virginia

In any election year, campaign signs seem to multiply in the month leading up to Election Day.

With less than a month until Nov. 3, and 2020’s contentious political climate, local police and sheriff’s departments are fielding reports of stolen, damaged and vandalized campaign signs.

In Virginia’s Arlington County, where campaign signs can be put in local street medians 31 days before voters go to polls, local Democrats say at least 40 signs were destroyed or vandalized within hours of being put up.

A “Dump Trump” sign on the lawn of a local civil rights icon — Joan Trumpauer Mulholland — was ripped. “I had to staple it back together,” according to a news release from Arlington Democrats.

“It was done in the dark of night,” Mulholland said. “History repeats itself.”

Mulholland is now 79. She was known for taking part in 1960s civil rights sit-ins and was the first white person to integrate the historically Black Tougaloo College, in Mississippi.

In Virginia’s Winchester, Frederick and Clarke counties, reports of stolen presidential signs involve both Trump and Biden signs.

“I suspect more signs are stolen or vandalized than are reported,” Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper told the Winchester Star. “These cases are difficult to investigate, but we’re lucky in Clarke that we can devote the resources necessary to bring closure in these.”

Frederick County resident Dana Newcomb said he had put large clusters of signs along local roadways, supporting President Donald Trump and local Republican candidates.

“It’s really bizarre,” he told the newspaper. “They would go in and steal the Trump signs and leave all of the others.”

In Virginia, campaign signs may not be placed along state roads. While Virginia Department of Transportation doesn’t patrol for them, they are typically removed when crews do work on the medians.

County regulations specify where political signs can be located, along local roads.

According to Virginia law: “No locality shall have the authority to prohibit the display of political campaign signs on private property if the signs are in compliance with zoning and right-of-way restrictions applicable to temporary nonpolitical signs, if the signs have been posted with the permission of the owner.”

Stealing a campaign sign is considered larceny. A charge, if placed, would be dependent upon the value of the item. Petit larceny, a misdemeanor, covers items under $200, and can include fines and jail. Grand larceny, a felony, could be charged for an item valued over $200.

While sign stealing is rarely prosecuted locally, some homeowners are training their outdoor home security cameras on their political signs, in the event they are vandalized or stolen.

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