As with other communities, political sign thefts reported in Hudson

Jeff Saunders
Kent Weeklies
Stow resident Chris Caetta's display is back up in front of his home after it was vandalized in early August, but he has added extra lighting outside his home and only has it up when he can keep an eye on it.

HUDSON — For John Tomasulo, the loss of the flag from in front of his West Streetsboro Street diner was about more than property damage and theft.

“It’s very sad, you know, very sad,” he said. “You see these signs that say, ‘Hate has no home here,’ but the same people that put those up are like, full of hate.”

What happened to the Thin Blue Line American flag that Tomasula had initially put up to honor police in front of Johnny’s Diner last winter is a variation on a phenomenon that shows up during elections.

Multiple thefts of political signs have been reported in the area since at least July and similar thefts of signs and flags have been reported in connection with protests against police violence.

According to an Aug. 31 police report, Tomasulo reported someone cut the flag off its pole during the night. On Friday, Tomasulo described the approximately 2-foot-by-4-foot flag as a black-and-white American flag with a horizontal blue stripe across it, which symbolizes the thin blue line of police between society and chaos.

He said someone cut it off the pole, leaving just a strip of cloth about an inch wide, and then stole the flag.

“Someone gets beat up, stabbed, or whatever, the next thing you know they’re calling the police, the same people who are hating the police and want to defund them,” he said. “It’s just sad. It’s probably a younger kid, you’d like to think, who wasn’t taught properly in school and by his parents. Wasn’t taught properly by his parents and this is the result. It’s what you get.”

Initially reports in area communities concerned thefts for the most part of Donald Trump signs and pro-police signs and flags.

“Right now, they seem to favor Trump and Back the Blue [signs],” said Tallmadge Police Chief Ron 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 Stow, Cuyahoga Falls and other towns. Stow resident Chris Caetta reported someone went after a display he had in his Marsh Road home’s front yard at about 11 p.m. Aug. 4, something that a security camera caught grainy footage of.

“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 not in bed.

Hudson police say that as of Thursday, they have had recent reports of three Trump signs stolen and four other political signs they did not have specific information about.

“Based on a quick review of our police reports, many are only identified as political signs, not what the sign said, so it would be difficult to determine which had more sign issues,” City Spokeswoman Jody Roberts said Thursday.

But later in August, some thefts of Joe Biden signs were turning up a little more and a Hudson woman reported Aug. 26 that someone stole her Black Lives Matter sign from outside her Stonebridge Court home during the night.

And in another example, which includes a bit of a twist, a neighbor of Caetta’s reported to Stow police on Aug. 22 that someone not only stole her Biden sign, but left a Trump sign in its place.

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 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.”

Titus said two of the Stow reports involved thefts of pro-Trump signs, and one of those included a pro-police flag theft, though he could not confirm whether that was the Caetta report. One report, he said was the theft of a Biden sign.

According to Hudson police, a survey of reports showed that in 2016, three Trump signs, one Hillary Clinton sign and five unidentified political signs were reported stolen in 2016; three unidentified signs were reported stolen in 2012; and seven Barack Obama signs, two John McCain signs and three unidentified signs were reported stolen in 2008.

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.”

Tomasulo said that from his point of view, he believes it is a matter of children being taught patriotism and respect for the police and other people’s property.

“We support our men and women in blue and the fine job they do,” he said. “Parents need to educate their children on how they’re here to serve and protect. Just like with any other institution, you always have a bad apple, you know. That doesn’t reflect the majority of our men and women in blue. It’s in the very low minority. They’re mostly there for our own protection, you know.”

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.