Trump-Pence signs stolen months before election


JASPER — With November’s presidential election still months away, yard signs voicing support for Republican incumbents Donald Trump and Mike Pence are already vanishing from Jasper properties.

Both Jasper Police Department Chief Nathan Schmitt and Mark Messmer, the Dubois County Republican Party chairman, have heard recent reports of stolen signage. While not an entirely new phenomenon, both men stressed that swiping political signs isn’t just disrespectful — it’s also a crime.

“People just need to respect other people’s opinions and respect their property,” Messmer said. “And leave them alone.”

Taking a sign off another person’s land constitutes a misdemeanor theft charge, Schmitt explained. The chief has heard from two people directly about their political yard signs being snatched, and he’s also heard of other residents whose campaign signs have been taken but not reported.

While these kinds of thefts have happened in previous election cycles, Schmitt said he believes that what is happening at the national level has emotions running high — a possible explanation as to why the local signs are disappearing earlier this time around.

“We just want people to respect everybody’s opinion and respect their property,” Schmitt said. “If somebody put up a political sign in their yard, that’s their belief and that’s their view. And we would request that everybody just leave those alone.”

Jasper resident Merrill Osterman’s Trump-Pence sign was uprooted and taken from his yard on the night of June 9. It had been in place, near the road, for about a week.

“There were several emotions,” he said of how he felt for it to be taken away. “No. 1, it’s just the violation of somebody coming on your property and stealing something. [That] is a complete violation of your privacy and your safety and security.”

He continued: “And then from a patriotic perspective, we are a military family, and my professional life is dedicated to supporting the military. And our military folks put their lives on the line to protect the freedom of speech. Freedom to get out and vote and select our leaders. And I think stealing the sign is a ... slap in the face of our democratic process.”

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