Political Sign Snatching and Sign ‘Musical Chairs’ is… Theft



Do you cast your votes based solely upon the sentiment of a political sign proudly displayed on your favorite neighbor’s yard?

I didn’t think so.

Despite the idea that political lawn signs are more a celebration of one’s choice in an election than a radiating propaganda force that infects citizens who drive by, it seems that I hear plenty of stories about how a great number of garden messages are stolen or redistributed to different houses in every Shasta County election.   When I hear these stories, I also hear ridiculous justifications for sign theft from “It’s offensive!” to “It’s a violation of this neighborhood’s CC&Rs!”

To those who are offended by a 2’x 3′ political sign, I cordially invite you to look at another 6-square-foot space in the remaining 314,682 square feet available in the beautiful Redding area.

As for the CC&R point, I am unaware of any jurisdiction in the Shasta County area that currently prohibits reasonable political signage in yards.  Granted, there are people everywhere that take political signs to an unreasonable degree.  If a sign is found to be in violation of a neighborhood’s CC&Rs, it is a good neighbor’s responsibility to alert that particular household of the violation, not “borrow” the violating sign.

That said, this piece should serve two purposes:  To inform Redding’s citizenry of the penalties associated with political yard sign theft, and to encourage a call-to-arms among Reddingites to report and be generally unaccommodating toward sneaky individuals caught with signs after sundown.

Political signs are expensive.  Many signs are printed by union printers and can cost upwards of $20.  California Penal Code §484-487 defines Petty Theft as the stealing of goods amounting to less than $400.  If the amount of goods stolen is less than $50, a penalty fine of up to $250 can be assessed.  If the amount of goods stolen is more than $50 but less than $400, a fine of up to $1,000 can be assessed.  It seems that when signs are stolen, more than one is snatched at a time.  As sign costs add up, a caught sign thief may be in a world of hurt.

I’ve got a personal stake in this as I have had several modest political signs stolen from my Redding house in the past year.  I am not mentioning names, but I live in the beginning of the Sunset West subdivision in West Redding when I am not going to school in Boston.  It’s funny that even in Boston, where heavily opinionated and prank-spontaneous college students stagger the streets on Friday and Saturday nights, political signs of all types are usually respected.

At the end of the day, I hope Redding citizens keep in mind that the easiest way to persuade fellow voters is to offer insight in a political discussion.  Those who don’t respect personal property or opinions may find it more difficult to win the hearts and minds of their target audience in the end.

Rocky Slaughter is a political science student at Northeastern University in Boston, MA.  He is currently a law intern at a local firm and an owner of a web design company. Read his blog at rockyslaughter.com.

Rocky Slaughter

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