Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Security eye turned on sign stealers

Express Staff Writer

Political signs are a sign of the times in Blaine County and across the nation in this year?s strongly contested presidential election. Express photo by Chris Pilaro

It?s not legal, but election season is a time of traditional mischief for a surprising number of United States citizens. A local man who works in the business of installing and maintaining security cameras is trying to help put an end to the naughtiness in the Wood River Valley.

?I believe in the power of everybody?s choice. I don?t care if you vote for Kerry or Bush. Get out and vote. But you shouldn?t go out and stick your sign in the place of somebody else?s,? said Eric Palmer, who owns A+ Audio/Video in Ketchum.

Palmer said he has received complaints from a number of his clients throughout the Wood River Valley who have found their campaign yard signs missing or vandalized.

?I don?t care if they?re Democrats or Republicans,? he said. ?I?m calling my clients, and they?re calling me. I?ve been running around like a madman repositioning the cameras onto the signs.?

Palmer said he has already repositioned security cameras at 27 homes. He anticipates repositioning at least 15 more in the final few days before the Nov. 2 election.

But the police chiefs at Ketchum and Sun Valley, where Palmer said the majority of his clients live, said their departments have not received any complaints from local residents.

Ketchum Police Chief Corey Lyman said the crime probably amounts to malicious injury to property or theft, both misdemeanors.

?Every year when there are elections, there tend to be people who complain about that,? Lyman said.

He?s right. A quick Internet search revealed a surprising number of rather entertaining campaign sign stealing news articles.

According to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, a Lakewood Republican who was stealing campaign signs got nabbed when he ran across a low-hanging driveway chain, fell face first onto a pilfered sign and the concrete and knocked himself unconscious.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, presidential campaign yard signs are disappearing so quickly that the police chief dispatched an extra officer to patrol election banner hot spots. Near the King of Prussia mall north of Philadelphia, someone stole a campaign sign for George W. Bush and replaced it with a flyer depicting him as Adolf Hitler.

In Minneapolis, Minn., a police chief opined that political yard sign thefts and vandalism are most likely not scheming political operatives but teenagers out for a joy ride, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In Blaine County, Palmer said he will turn culprits over to authorities for investigation and possible prosecution.

?This is just to alert them that they?re going to get recorded,? Palmer said. ?I will turn them in. It?s like an epidemic. This is a national election. It?s very important, especially this one.?

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