The Presidential Election is less than two weeks away, and political tensions are running high. Sometimes too high.
While theft and defacement of political yard signs is nothing out of the ordinary, both area Democrats and Republicans say the political divisiveness feels more charged than in years past.
“We didn’t have this problem four years ago, not to that extent,” said Jennie Caldwell, vice-chair of the North Haven Democratic Town Committee. “In the past, few people would occasionally call us and ask for a new sign because theirs had been stolen. But now they call us on a regular basis.”
Sign theft has become a “consistent, ongoing problem,” she said.
And both sides deal with it.
Durham resident Tracy Ogrodnik – a supporter of President Trump – said she is used to trespassers stealing her yard signs. But this year, Ogrodnik said her signs have been destroyed. “Two days in a row someone slashed my sign,” she said. “I think a person was walking, he didn’t want other people to see him strolling with a sign, so he had to destroy it.”
Another Durham resident, Melinda Hemson, felt it necessary to place her Trump sign in a window, away from foot traffic. “I was warned that someone will either take it or destroy it if I put it in my yard,” she said. “From driving around town, I see that this is true. I see many wire stands where a Trump sign was the day before.”
Representatives of both parties condemned this stealing and vandalism.
“We know some Trump signs have gone missing,” said Kristin Campanelli, chairman of the Berlin Democratic Town Committee. “Our organization does not condone that kind of activity. We at the Berlin Democrats know that signs cost money, and it takes the work of many dedicated volunteers to put them out and we know that our colleagues across the aisle agree.”
In Plainville, Democratic Town Committee chairperson Rebecca Martinez and Gayle Dennehy-Carrier, chair of the Republican Town Committee, signed off on a letter urging residents "to respect the right of community members to display political signs on their property."
The town committee heads stated: "Emotions can run high as we approach Election Day. This year is certainly no different in that regard. Let’s all work together to ensure that the remainder of the 2020 campaign season reflects civility, safety and good citizenship."
Durham First Selectman Laura Francis, a Republican, echoed that sentiment.
“We should be grateful for all candidates, even those who we may not be able to support,” she said. “I did have someone steal one of the signs on my lawn. It happened at my mother’s house in another town also. As I told her, maybe someone wanted it for their own lawn!”
While sign theft is, according to Francis, a “perennial problem,” the exact number of cases is hard to pin down since many people don’t file a police report. Some simply get a new sign.
Nevertheless, Plainville Police Lieutenant Nicholas Mullins gave some tips to keep political signs in place.
“You can keep them closer to your house. It’s not going to totally solve the problem, but it can deter people from trespassing your property,” said Mullins. “We also suggest installing video surveillance to help us identify the individual responsible for the theft. Stay vigilant. If your neighbors see anything suspicious, they should call us and we will be happy to help out.”