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.

Editor’s note: This a best-of column that was originally published October 30, 2008.

Rocky Slaughter is co-founder and CEO of Sugar Pine Media.

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4 Responses

  1. AJacoby AJacoby says:

    HEAR, HEAR right HERE!! Besides being illegal, sign stealing is petty and above all JUVENILE!! Thank you, Doni, for running this timely article again. Come on, people of Redding (at those of to whom this applies), GROW UP!!!

    • Avatar Ron says:

      Most likely juveniles are to blame for the removal of signs
      I have seen some carrying signs near the high school in the morning. I doubt they took it from their own yards.

  2. Avatar K Beck says:

    I believe posting a political sign is considered free speech. In Sunnyvale, CA this was a major debate in condo complexes, apartment complexes, and mobile home parks. The powers that be, then, said everyone has the right to post a political sign. Most were then allowed to post signs as long as they were posted on inside windows. Solved the theft problem.

    I don’t know how relevant this article is to Redding in 2014 since it was written 6 years ago.

    Other places I lived required ALL political signs to be removed a set number of days after each election. After that they were considered “litter” and the campaign (candidate?) could be fined. Campaigns I worked on as a volunteer asked the volunteers to stick around after the election, drive around town, and collect any signs they came across. Seems like the correct thing to do. However, if the volunteers are not told that far in advance, they tended to evaporate election night.

    In my political history it usually turned out that the people who stole campaign signs were the volunteers for the opposing candidate. It is up to the candidate and the campaign manager to make it CLEAR that ALL campaign workers DO NOT take the opponents yard signs. I remember one campaign manager stating in no uncertain terms if she found out any of us took an opponents sign we were NOT to come back to the office. Pretty bad to be fired from a volunteer position!

    Something else to consider is this: if you have 3, 4, 5 (or maybe even two if your yard is small) signs in your yard you are diluting your message. People driving by cannot possibly read all of them. And they also become a hazard because you are distracting drivers.

    If you think your neighbors are taking your signs you need to have a conversation with them. Might be a good idea to talk to them before you put out your signs.

  3. Avatar cheyenne says:

    I hate all election signs. When I am crusing streets looking for garage sales and see an election sign, which all seem to be the same size as garage sale signs, I am thrown off my search for unique items.