Election season brings political sign thefts along with campaigning
The images are grainy and dark and faces and a license plate number could be made out, but a security camera outside Stow resident Chris Caetta’s Marsh Road home at about 11 p.m. Aug. 4 caught footage of what happened.
“Three punks got out of a car and pushed a cross down and broke off the American, Christian and police flags, which is horrible,” he said.
Caetta said Christian and police flags, along with a Donald Trump sign, were stolen. He reported what happened to police and now takes extra precautions, including putting up additional lights around his home and only having items on display when he is at home and awake.
Political sign thefts are generally not unusual during elections.
Stow Police Lt. Mike Titus said that in August, there were three reports of political sign thefts in the city.
“It’s hard to say how many incidents happened that were not reported,” he said, adding that he does not believe what police have seen so far is exceptional compared to past elections.
“It doesn’t seem out of the ordinary this early in the election process,” he said. “I’m sure as we get closer to November, the reported incidents probably will escalate.”
Tallmadge Police Chief Ron Williams said he knows there have been thefts, though he could not say how many or how they compare to past elections.
“It’s enough that it caught my eye, but we haven’t tracked the numbers,” he said.
Police reports in area communities have shown the thefts to be somewhat one-sided in a partisan sense.
“Right now, they [thieves] seem to favor Trump and Back the Blue [signs],” said Williams. “I assume they’re people who don’t like these signs, but that’s just an assumption on my part.”
Similar reports also came out of Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson.
But later in August, some thefts of Joe Biden signs were turning up a little more and a Hudson woman reported in late August that someone stole her Black Lives Matter sign from outside her Stonebridge Court home.
Titus said two of the Stow reports involved thefts of pro-Trump sign. Another was the theft of a Biden sign.
In a bit of a twist, according to a police report, a neighbor of Caetta’s reported Aug. 22 that someone not only stole her Biden sign, but left a Trump sign in its place.
Titus said whatever a person’s political beliefs, there are better ways to express them.
“It’s going to be, I’m sure, a contentious election this year and keep your hands to yourself kind of thing,” he said. “It’s not your property to take. Get out there and vote.”
Caetta said that after the cross he had made was knocked over, he had thought about leaving it there to show people passing by what happened. But then something unexpected occurred that made him feel better about the whole thing.
While he was away from home one day soon after the incident, his security camera caught video of a vehicle pulling into his driveway and an unidentified woman getting out. She then set the cross back up, straightened a lone Christian flag still attached to it, got back into her car and left. The day after that, two other women stopped and told him they were happy his display was back up.
Caetta said he hopes to find out who the woman is so he can thank her.
“To me that was so inspiring,” he said. “This is kind of a story here, giving faith back in human nature.”
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP.