Political sign stealing on the rise in Rowan as campaign season heats up

Published 1:16 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2020

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — Though local law enforcement say they haven’t heard many reports, locals are reporting that dozens of political signs are being stolen throughout the community.

Rowan County Democrats Chair Geoffrey Hoy said the party’s office on West Innes Street has already seen Biden/Harris signs stolen twice along with one for Keith Townsend, a Democrat from Mount Ulla challenging Rep. Julia Howard in the state House race to represent the 77th District.

“Stealing signs is not an appropriate way to express concern about election outcomes,” Hoy said. “It’s against the law, and it’s most uncivil.”

Hoy added that about a dozen locals have visited the county Democratic headquarters, located at 1504 W. Innes St., and reported that their signs have been stolen. Some have shown up for weeks in a row reporting stolen signs, he said.

Sam Post, owner of the PhenomWell CBD Store, said he’s had three of his Biden/Harris signs stolen at his home over the span of a couple days. He was surprised to learn that they had been stolen in the daytime rather than at night. And despite displaying signs for multiple Democratic candidates, only his Biden/Harris signs have been stolen.

“You’re not supposed to steal things that don’t belong to you,” Post said.

This isn’t the first election where Post has had political signs stolen from his yard, but he said this is the first time it’s happened so quickly after posting the sign.

He recently began putting substances on the signs, such as vaseline, glitter and honey, in hopes of attracting bugs so they’ll “be sorry that they took my sign” once they’re in their car, he said.

Post said he contacted the Salisbury Police about the issue, adding that he was told the police department has received multiple phone calls.

But Lt. Lee Walker, spokesperson for Salisbury Police, said only one report has been filed.

Capt. John Sifford at the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said the office has not yet received a report of stolen political signs.

Josh Bergeron / Salisbury Post – Signs pepper the lawn of the Rowan County Republican headquarters on West Innes Street in Salisbury.

Ronnie Smith, a philanthropist and Republican, said he had nine political signs stolen in 2016 and has three stolen so far during this election. Smith said he contacted police about the issue and reported 13 other locations in Salisbury that had signs stolen as well.

He added that some locals have told him they’ve received threatening letters in the mail.

“It’s upset a lot of people in Salisbury,” Smith said. “If this does not stop, it could get worse.”

Walker said stealing political signs can result in a misdemeanor larceny charge, which is considered a class 1 misdemeanor. The penalty for a class 1 misdemeanor can be up to $1,000 in fines and up to 60 days in jail. If one has no prior convictions, the potential sentence could range from one to 45 days.

If anyone expresses a physical threat related to political signs, Walker said the person can be charged with misdemeanor communicating threats, which is also a class 1 misdemeanor.

“It seems like we can’t go through the election process without someone feeling they have to exert some sort of pressure,” said Don Vick, chair of the Rowan County Republican Party. “It’s a sad state of affairs.”

Josh Bergeron / Salisbury Post – This map at the front of the Rowan County Republican headquarters shows visitors which sign they should ask for in the county’s legislative races. The yellow area is a district in which Rep. Harry Warren is seeking re-election. The pink area is where Rep. Julia Howard is seeking re-election. In green, the 67th District, Rep. Wayne Sasser does not have competition.

Vick recalled one local who purchased two Trump signs one morning only to return for more after they were stolen the same day.

“It’s gotten really ridiculous,” Vick said.

Of the nearly 1,000 Trump signs given out to the local community, Vick said he’s been told about 100 of them have been stolen. Republicans at the county party headquarters, located at 612 W. Innes St., now bring the Trump sign inside each night so it won’t be stolen. 

On Tuesday, Vick said he was surprised that nothing had been attempted with the Trump flags at the party headquarters. On Wednesday, volunteers at the party headquarters said the flags had been stolen Tuesday night.

“I realize we’re in an election year and we hopefully will respect each person’s opinion,” Smith said.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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