As election day gets closer and closer, reports of theft and vandalism of political yard signs have been increasing across the Greenbrier Valley. And it seems that no one is safe from this immature and illegal behavior, as supporters of both parties have seen their property stolen and destroyed in equal measure. This type of behavior is also something that the Lewisburg Police Department takes very seriously.
“We’ve gotten a number of reports,” Lewisburg Chief of Police Chris Teubert said. “We’re very aware of it, and we take every report seriously. It’s trespassing, it’s vandalism, it’s theft, it’s petit larceny.”
Teubert further stated that while police are looking into these matters, they currently do not have any suspects. No evidence in the form of witnesses, vehicle descriptions or license plate numbers, or surveillance footage is available to help identify the culprits of these crimes. If anyone has information that could be helpful they are asked to contact the Lewisburg Police Department at 304-645-1626.
While displaying political signs is a completely normal occurrence, and a seemingly harmless way of showing support for a particular candidate, there are several factors to keep in mind when showing your support.
One significant point to consider is sign-placement. As outlined by West Virginia State Code, “political signs are not permitted on state property, which includes rights of way and roadsides. Those who are convicted of violating this section of Code are guilty of a misdemeanor and can be fined up to $100 per occurrence. (per sign)”
In a statement released in October 2018, W.Va. Secretary of State Mac Warner said, “Inevitably, some candidates or their supporters will place signs on state-owned property despite the laws and despite our advice not to do it. They do so at their own risk and subject themselves to the penalties of the law.”
In the same statement, Secretary Warner specifically addressed those who would choose to steal or destroy political signs, “Taking someone else’s sign or destroying a sign amounts to theft or destruction of property, and can be a criminal offense.”
In addition, a perpetrator of such a crime could also be charged with criminal trespassing. According to the West Virginia State Code, a trespassing conviction brings with it a fine of between $100 and $500. Theft and destruction of property carry fines that are commensurate with the value of the stolen or damaged property, and the intent of the perpetrator.