You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

San Jose sign thieves caught in the act

San José Spotlight logo: MainLogo San José Spotlight 9/28/2022 Loan-Anh Pham

Election signs are disappearing across San Jose, and local candidates are asking would-be thieves to keep off the grass.

It’s part of an ongoing trend that candidates say disrupts the democratic process.

Hundreds of campaign signs have disappeared in the span of a few weeks, and there is video evidence of some thefts, said Matt Mahan, San Jose councilmember and mayoral candidate. His campaign has distributed more than 5,000 signs and replacing missing ones is costing the campaign thousands of dollars.

One video obtained by Mahan’s campaign filmed on Aug. 28 shows home security camera footage of a car pulling up to a residence as a passenger runs out and removes a sign before leaving. In another video obtained by the campaign and filmed on Sept. 23, an individual walks up to a campaign banner outside of a business, and removes it from a chain-link fence. San José Spotlight reviewed both videos, but can only confirm the second sign was in support of Mahan.

While the thieves are unidentified, Mahan said the scale of the thefts indicate more than random vandalism.

“San Jose is better than this. We should embrace debate and discussion—not make our politics so toxic that people feel that theft is an appropriate response to political disagreement,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “I certainly call upon my opponent Cindy Chavez to send a clear message to her supporters that theft and vandalism are wrong… All campaigns should do that—and I am certainly asking my supporters not to retaliate.”

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez’s mayoral campaign is facing the same problem, with thousands of signs distributed and hundreds disappearing since the primary election, said Brian Parvizshahi, spokesperson for her campaign. 

“(Supporters) feel proud to put (out) a sign to show their support. And then they feel violated when it’s stolen from them,” Parvizshahi told San José Spotlight. “If someone supporting Cindy is taking down Mahan signs—please stop. It’s not being helpful. We hope the Mahan campaign would encourage the same.”

Campaign signs were targets ahead of the June primary election, which experts said could be particularly damaging for first-time candidates who need to build name recognition and visibility. Some candidates have also faced opposition mailers and digital text campaigns, efforts that are often funded by special interest groups. It doesn’t stop there: transitions of power between successors and predecessors of an office can also be rife with conflict.

Lifting lawn signs

Stolen or vandalized campaign signs indicate a political climate that is intolerant of other candidates and viewpoints, said Irene Smith, a San Jose City Council District 3 candidate, who’s also had signs stolen. Signs allow people to communicate their political preferences.

“It’s not so minor because it’s suppressing the right to free speech in a political process. It’s a right that we all guarantee,” Smith told San José Spotlight. “We should take it more seriously than the Halloween (toilet papering) of a house.”

Smith said each sign that goes missing means a volunteer or herself takes extra time to replace them. Her campaign is using cable ties to help residents secure signs to their homes.

Lawn signs represent a campaign’s financial efforts and should be left alone, said Omar Torres, also a candidate in the District 3 race. He said more than 50 signs have been taken from his campaign.

“I hope that lawn signs are not being taken out of spite,” Torres told San José Spotlight. “Before a supporter of a candidate steals a lawn sign, they should think of all the hard work the candidate has done to get such an expensive lawn sign and investment from their donors as well.”

Hundreds of signs have gone missing from residents’ yards and local businesses, said Bien Doan, a San Jose City Council District 7 candidate. Stealing a sign can constitute petty theft, a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment and/or fines up to $1,000 in California.

“Stealing signs is a very minor symptom of the more concerning problems our (District 7) community faces, such as experiencing the highest violent crime rate in the city,” Doan told San José Spotlight.

District 7 Incumbent Maya Esparza felt the stolen sign pain during the June primary, a concerning trend that limits civic engagement, said campaign spokesperson Nick Kaspar. The campaign has not yet distributed signs for the general election.

The consequences of vandalized and stolen campaign signs have residents not placing them on their lawns, Smith said, concerned about attention from potential trespassers.

“We have to respect everybody’s yard signs out there,” Smith told San José Spotlight. “We have an opportunity to come together and support different perspectives, because it’s the different perspectives that actually make better solutions.”

Contact Loan-Anh Pham at loan-anh@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

The post San Jose sign thieves caught in the act appeared first on San José Spotlight.

AdChoices
AdChoices

San José Spotlight

San José Spotlight: MainLogo
San José Spotlight
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon