WESTERVILLE — The Genoa Township Police Department is dealing with a familiar problem just before a presidential election — the theft of political candidate yard signs.
“It has always baffled me as to why someone is motivated to do so, but to be clear, if you trespass on someone’s yard and steal their sign it is a crime,” Chief Steve Gammill wrote on Facebook. “It doesn’t matter whether the sign, flag, or banner is about any particular candidate or issue; the fact you disagree with it does not give you the right to deface or steal it.”
Gammill said people who are caught taking or destroying this expression of one’s free speech can be arrested and charged with criminal trespass and theft.
“You will need to take time out of your busy day to attend several court appearances and likely spend a lot of money on a lawyer,” he said.
There may be exceptions where the sign may violate the rules of a homeowners’ association or zoning regulations, in which cases those entities may be contacted. Residents are advised to not take it upon themselves to remove signs from property that does not belong to them.
“Consider the fact that others are allowed to have a different opinion than you about a candidate or issue, respect their right to do so, and keep on truckin’,” Gammill said.
Speaking of the election, the police are one of the township’s three levies on the November ballot. Gammill emphasized the issue has nothing to do with “defunding” the department.
“The police department is 100% funded by this five-year levy,” Gammill wrote. “I recommended the reduction, because we have been able to reduce our expenses through lower health care costs and good fiscal management.”
In other recent activity, the police:
• Rescued a dog that may have been hit by a vehicle near Genoa Baptist Church on Oct. 11. The dog was taken to Annehurst Veterinary Hospital, where it was later reunited with its owner.
• Alerted residents around Ainsley Drive about burglaries to homes and vehicles committed by three people at the end of July. The next month, two stolen vehicles from Hilmar Drive were recovered on Polaris Parkway.
There were also several car break-ins on Parkmoor Drive on Sept. 8.
“Please make sure you lock your cars and remove your valuables,” Gammill said.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.