Police target theft of political signs

First Posted: 8/22/2009

A hotly contested mayors race in Mount Airy is being accompanied by a recent rash of sign thefts, which police are trying to combat.
For example, Deborah Cochran, a member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners who is one of the four candidates for mayor, said Thursday that more than 20 of her campaign signs have been stolen.
And those items arent cheap. Depending on the quantity ordered, the price can vary, but most of the time they are at least 12 dollars each, Cochran said. If you only get 10, they are 15 dollars each.
Her signs have been taken from both residences and businesses, generally all over town, the candidate added. There have been some key locations all over.
Cochran is not the only candidate victimized.
Weve had some (stolen), too, Paul Eich, another mayor hopeful, said Thursday. But I think that happens in every campaign.
Eich added that he would prefer to see citizens express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a particular candidate in the voting booth rather that taking signs down.
Teresa Lewis, who also is seeking the mayors office, said minor sign problems have accompanied her candidacy as well.
I have had a few signs that have disappeared, Lewis said. However, I dont think its anything that the police need to be concerned about when they have bigger issues to take care of.
Gene Clark, the fourth mayoral candidate, said sign theft has not been an issue with his campaign.
A primary for mayor will be held on Oct. 6, with the two top vote-getters advancing to the Nov. 3 general election.
Lt. Jim Armbrister of the Mount Airy Police Department said Wednesday that in addition to political posters, real estate signs have been reported stolen in the city.
Though someone might think removing such items is not a crime, Armbrister said it involves a property theft, just as if they stole from a store or home. The police department will be charging anybody that has been found taking them with larceny, he said.
In an effort to stop the thefts, officers will be conducting random patrols throughout the city, in an addition to other efforts. Some of the signs are under video surveillance, Armbrister added.
Cochran said Thursday that one woman who has had political signs stolen twice from her yard taped the crime during the second time, which could lead to an arrest.
She doubts that anyone is taking signs on behalf of any of her opponents, but wonders why so many of them have been removed.
Im puzzled, because in the last election back in 2007, none of that happened, Cochran said of the campaign during which she was elected commissioner. She is at a loss in trying to figure out who is responsible for the thefts. I have no idea.
The candidate said that along with the expense of the signs, it is a chore to find spots to place them because you have to get permission from the landowner.
Since she works at a local radio station in addition to her duties as a city commissioner, Cochran said finding time to erect signs can be difficult as well. The candidate mentioned that she recently put some up late at night in the rain.
It is a lot of work.

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