With less than a week remaining before the Nov. 8 general election, some Pettis County residents are facing the problem of theft of political campaign yard signs.
According to Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney Phillip Sawyer, he has received calls from property owners about the situation occurring for the past six weeks.
“I know that I did receive more calls last night (Halloween) than normal from individuals who said signs had been taken from their property,” Sawyer said Tuesday morning. “I have received calls from throughout Pettis County, that this has been occurring.
“I’ve been made aware of the thefts but I have not received any official reports from law enforcement requesting charges be filed,” he added. “I’ve had people say they think the thefts have been by both adults and juveniles.”
Both local and national candidates signs have been reported missing.
Sawyer said he encourages individuals to file complaints with either the Sedalia Police Department or local police departments or the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office if individuals see fit anytime a law has been broken.
Theft of a yard sign would be filed as a misdemeanor.
“The maximum penalty for adult jurisdiction would be a year and a fine up to $1,000 or a combination of the two,” Sawyer explained. “Missouri is one of the states that does have a statue specific to political sign theft.
“Simplistically, stated it is classified as a misdemeanor but under the specific statute the maximum fines increase substantially,” he added. “Trespassing charges could apply but theft is the bigger issue.”
The revised state statute, RVSMO 115.637.1, covers not only stealing political lawn signs but also includes willfully defacing, mutilating or destroying any campaign yard sign on private property.
The offenses are listed as class four election offenses and according to the statute, “Conviction for any of these offenses shall be punished by imprisonment of not more than one year or by a fine of not more than $2,500 or by both such imprisonment and fine.”
Citizens should also be cautious on their political sign placement in the City of Sedalia.
Per Section 64-202(b)(4) of the Sedalia City Code of Ordinances,“if a political sign, poster or other paper or device, is placed in the ground and such sign is placed between the sidewalk and the street or if there is no sidewalk present, such sign is placed within 15 feet of the street curb or where the street surface ends, the building official, or his designee or the city police department are hereby authorized to remove such sign without prior written notice to the owner of the sign.”
According to a City of Sedalia news release issued earlier this year, the purpose of the ordinance is public safety. Vehicle operators must have a clear line of sight to avoid dangerous conflicts with pedestrians and cyclists.
“City officials will not dedicate part of their workday primarily to the issue of sign removal, but please be aware that if they are already in the area and notice a sign incorrectly placed, they will remove it,” the release states.
City officials are also obligated by ordinance to respond to citizen complaints about sign placement by inspecting and determining if the placement is in violation of city code. Contact the Community Development office to retrieve removed signs prior to the close of the election.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.