Election Day is just over a month away, and reports of people stealing and damaging campaign signs are sweeping Northeast Florida.
Some residents told News4Jax their signs were stolen from their yards and even vandalized and brought back.
“It was a little after midnight on the 16th. They came in my yard — not only once — but twice,” said April Watkins in Union County. “Then to have the graffiti put on them and brought back, I was really hurt. I was saddened.”
The Union County Sheriff’s Office said it believes children are involved, so school resource officers are also taking part in the investigation.
The Sheriff’s Office also told News4Jax that it has received about six additional reports of presidential campaign signs that were stolen out of yards, as well as reports of local candidates with their signs stolen.
“This occurs every election,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
In Nassau County, the Fernandina Beach Police Department said that in the past few days, it has had multiple reports of stolen and damaged signs.
A resident sent News4Jax photos before and after his flag and sign were taken in the last two weeks.
Shelia Cocchi in Fernandina Beach said she’s willing to prank the thieves coming for her signs.
“People are getting very creative with Vaseline and glitter in ways to protect their sign. And I very clearly have my positions, but the signs are my property,” Cocchi said. “I voted today, so the supervisor of election will have my vote, and at this point, they can’t take that.”
And it’s not just happening at people’s homes.
The Office to Re-Elect the President in Fernandina Beach was hit, as well.
“Every night, almost, somebody will steal them or pull them out of the ground and break the metal,” said office manager Amand Borghese. “The big sign we have, which is 6 feet by 4 feet, we put up in a tree 7 feet tall so that nobody could get it, but that didn’t stop somebody who was angry or mean.”
Stealing campaign signs is more serious than people may realize. It’s against the law.
There is one instance where signs can be removed, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Signs are not allowed on the right-of-way of any state highway and can be removed in those instances.