York police say people caught stealing or vandalizing political signs could face charges. Credit: File | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — It’s a sign of the times.

With each election season come reports of those ubiquitous political signs being stolen, defaced, uprooted and thrown into a ditch, etc. This election season is proving no different.

Paul Radochia, the author of the citizen’s initiative Question 4 on the ballot, reported last week that 30 of his pro-Question 4 signs have been stolen from around town. “It’s discouraging,” he said. “People have a right to their opinion whether for or against it. That’s fine. But they should not make things personal.”

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Radochia referenced several recent posts on the online group York Community Dialogue bemoaning the number of Yes on Question 4 signs, one writer even going so far as to say he would “double dog dare” someone to steal some of them.

But residents should know that police are watching for unusual behavior these election days.

“We ask police officers to pay attention,” said Sgt. Luke Ernenwein. “If they see a car pulled off the side of the road, it may not be because someone is on a cellphone. It may be someone is doing something they’re not supposed to be doing.”

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Ernenwein said police would look at the facts of each incident in determining what charges might be brought, including theft, malicious mischief if the signs were uprooted and damaged, and criminal trespassing if someone is caught taking a sign that is on private property.

The town of York defers to state law when it comes to sign regulations, with one exception. The town’s ordinance allows temporary signs to be displayed no more than 30 days; state law allows signs to be placed in public rights of way for six weeks.

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Otherwise, state law dictates that these signs, referred to as “temporary” by the town and state, may not be placed within 30 feet of another temporary sign “bearing the same or substantially the same message.” Also, the signs must clearly state the name of the person or organization responsible for placing them on public land.

Penalty for removing, defacing or disturbing a sign is a fine of up to $250 per sign.

“People should not engage in criminal activity,” said Radochia. “We’re better than that. Our community is better than that.”