Like the rest of Chaffee County, Buena Vista is experiencing its share of political sign thefts and related aggravations as the Nov. 3 election nears.
During the past week, the Buena Vista Police Department has received reports of signs stolen from six properties, according to Chief Dean Morgan. “In one incident, the citizen wanted to make us aware of the theft, but did not want a report,” he noted in a release. “In one incident, a young lady was caught and admitted to removing a sign, but the homeowner did not want to pursue charges, and the sign was returned. In four other incidents, unknown suspects took signs from the yards of Buena Vista citizens.”
In efforts to curtail future theft, the Town has reached out to the three candidates in the District 1 county commissioner’s race, asking them to communicate with their supporters to not steal signs. It’s not the first time candidates have been asked by officials in the county to get the word out; signs have been disappearing in Salida and outside of towns as well.
“I did it a couple of weeks ago, then again when this round happened. I shared it via my Facebook pages and onward from there,” said Commissioner Keith Baker, who is facing Republican Hannah Hannah and Libertarian Bonnie Davis.
“Regarding people stealing signs, if individuals are going on someone’s property and stealing items from their property, there are laws on the books that can be applied,” Davis said. “I am not a lawyer, but I believe this is a felony misdemeanor. The authorities should be contacted to try and locate the individual or individuals stealing the signs.
“My criteria for placing a sign was, I asked people if they would like to put one of my signs in their yard,” said Davis. “You will only see signs for me if the person asked for one… I believe there should be some integrity observed with sign placing.”
Davis added that she has seen signs on BLM land, highway easements and properties for rent. “I called the BLM office in Canon City and was advised that signs should not be placed on BLM land. I was advised that I NEEDED to call the candidate and ask them to remove it.”
Hannah provided a response that brought in some of the thornier elements of this year’s commissioner’s race. “This has been happening to all sides and it needs to stop,” she said. “It’s childish behavior and it’s time to be adults. We have informed our party to let everyone know we don’t approve of this behavior at all, and we will continue to do so. One of our GOP members was almost run over by an ANTIFA* member who was vandalizing Republican signs in her neighborhood. So we are all too familiar with this silly behavior.
“Seeing how everyone is stepping up to condemn this type of ridiculous vandalism,” she added, “I would also like to ask where was the support when it came to how people were so aggressively ‘vandalizing’ my name and reputation with such heinous, destructive lies about me? If this behavior to campaign signs is to be condemned and shamed, then shouldn’t wrongful hate speech and slanderous behavior to a candidate’s name also be shamed and condemned by the leaders and media publicly as well?
Buena Vista Mayor Duff Lacy said the unnecessary situation puts additional demands on the local police, who “can’t be everywhere.”
“We’ve got one more month,” he said Monday. “Hopefully it quiets down.”
Lacy noted, though, that the thievery has gone beyond the election signs. Two of the Town’s large “Mask Up” signs have also disappeared – twice.
Morgan pointed out that the thefts aren’t just disrespectful, but they are also criminal behavior. “Taking the property of another is Theft, and if a person enters onto private property to take the signs, it can also be considered Trespassing. When property owners are willing to press charges, the officers of the BVPD will issue summonses into court for anyone caught engaging in this illegal activity.”
He continued: “The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a free expression of ideas, and stealing signs undermines this right and it accomplishes nothing. We ask that if you see anyone engaging in this behavior, or know about anyone engaging in this behavior, that you call the Police Department at 719-395-8654.”
*Note: No evidence has been supplied to substantiate this claim.