Both Hoquiam mayoral candidates say they are dealing with a rash of thefts of their campaign signs this year.
It is illegal, a misdemeanor, to steal campaign signs, but it’s difficult to catch the perpetrators in the act. However, video surveillance footage posted on Facebook by Brandon Eugene Maine taken on Emerson Avenue Sunday appears to show someone stealing one of incumbent Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff’s signs, and both candidates and their supporters are taking to social media to urge the identification of the culprit.
“A third of our campaign signs we put up have gone missing,” sstated Dickhoff on her Facebook page Sunday. “Campaigns are expensive and stealing signs is illegal.”
She posted the video footage, captured by City Councilman Steven Puvogel’s security system, that showed a small white vehicle stopping on the shoulder of Emerson Avenue Sunday at 3:12 p.m. A passenger in the vehicle gets out, crosses both lanes of traffic, pulls the sign out of the ground and appears to place it in the back passenger seat of the vehicle before the car drives off.
The woman is wearing a dark T-shirt and shorts, and appears to have long dark hair tied into a ponytail.
“Having so many missing is disconcerting. You expect to lose some. I’ve lost signs before. But this many? Never,” said Dickhoff, adding, “We do not believe this to be related to anyone officially in my opponent’s camp. We do want to discourage this theft in the future.”
The footage was quickly shared on Facebook by numerous supporters and opponents alike, including Dickhoff’s November opponent Ben Winkelman, a Hoquiam city councilman.
“I have lost a large number of signs,” said Winkelman Monday morning. “We need to hold people accountable for their criminal acts if they can be identified. I shared her videos on my Facebook campaign page asking for help in identifying the person in the video.”
Hoquiam Deputy Police Chief Joe Strong said his department had not been made aware of the sign thefts, but noted, “It’s misdemeanor theft” to take the signs. “Typically, if we’re able to identify a suspect we forward that to the city attorney’s office for charges of theft.” He added, “most often they would have to submit a payment for reimbursement, so restitution is involved as well.”
Dickhoff said this type of action, and the cost of it, can discourage truly qualified candidates from running for public office in the first place.
“Many passionate, talented and worthwhile people don’t run for office because of the cost,” she said. “Having to account for the same expenditure twice can be brutal when you have a bare bones election like we have.”
“I want this to be a fair mayoral race and believe in honesty and integrity and this person’s actions should not reflect on me as I do not condone this type of activity,” said Winkelman Monday. “I would love to find and hold the person accountable for messing with campaign signs, which is a misdemeanor.”