Sign theft angers political residents

By Dave Gomez

As the 2004 presidential election heats up in its final month, wrecked and strewn political signs have become a common sight in DeKalb.

“It’s an annoyance, it’s rude and it’s undemocratic,” said professor emeritus of sociology Herb Rubin, whose signs have been stolen for the second election in a row.

Rubin said that this election season, his signs for presidential candidate John Kerry, Illinois senate candidate Barack Obama and state representative candidate Bob Brown were stolen from his property.

“It’s happened to me in the past. [Signs] were all taken and tossed into people’s lawns,” he said.

The experience is not new for Julia Fauci, Democrat DeKalb County Board member.

Fauci said she had 20 of her campaign signs taken from supporters’ yards in one night while running for DeKalb County Board two years ago.

“It’s unfortunate because when you step on somebody’s yard to take a sign, you’re trespassing, but you’re also doing so much more,” Fauci said. “You’re trespassing on the Constitution. These are First Amendment rights.”

Sign thieves and vandals have targeted Republicans and Democrats equally, said DeKalb police Lt. Jim Kayes.

“Every election we have this kind of idiocy,” Kayes said.

The perpetrators are difficult to catch because knocking down or damaging the signs only takes a couple of seconds, Kayes said.

If caught vandalizing signs, they could face charges of criminal damage to property.

In meetings with other political supporters, Rubin said many of the other attendees have also reported having their signs stolen.

The signs are relatively cheap, but the issue is a matter of principle, Rubin said.

“I highly doubt if I’m going to persuade someone to vote for Kerry if I have a sign in my yard,” Rubin said. “But there are people running in my local offices who are not so well-known. Someone might come in and say, ‘You’ve got a sign for so and so, who is he? Tell me about him.’”

Signs for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have been taken also, as well as signs for Clay Campbell, Republican candidate for DeKalb County State’s Attorney, said Eric Johnson, president of the NIU College Republicans.

“Every election, you get signs that are disappearing, it’s just the nature of things,” Johnson said. “This year it’s been a little worse, since it’s just a contentious election year.”

Zach Hines photo