Democrats political signs stolen; thieves arrested

John Christensen
The Chronicle-Express

Democratic candidates signs stolen throughout Penn Yan area in recent days

PENN YAN – Two men were apprehended by a Yates County Sheriff’s Deputy at 5 a.m. Oct. 10 just outside of Penn Yan for stealing over 25 political signs. 

Two men stole 26 political signs from lawns in the Penn Yan area recently.

The Deputy saw the driver stop his pickup truck on Rte. 364 near County House Road, as the passenger got out and stole a political sign from the yard of a residence. 

The driver, Marcus F. Gingerich, 20, of Townline Road, Penn Yan, and the passenger Ryan A. Lawrence, 19, of Wayne, were discovered with 25 more signs in the bed of the pickup. They were also found will alcoholic beverages in the truck.

The signs held in evidence at the Yates County Sheriff’s Office were all for Democratic Presidential running mates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and for Democratic congressional candidate Tracy Mitrano.

“The majority of signs were stolen out of yards in the village of Penn Yan,” says Sheriff Ron Spike. “Deputies were in the right place just outside the village at the right time. Good police work.”

Gingerich and Lawrence were charged with petit larceny and unlawful possession of alcohol under age 21, though the total number of counts and in which jurisdictions is not yet clear.

Kellie Pantekoek Esq., Senior Legal Writer for the blog FindLaw, writes, “Yard signs supporting President Donald Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and other state and local candidates are all being targeted by those with opposing viewpoints. However, while some might view taking down or defacing yard signs as an act of civil discourse or political activism, the law is clear on the issue; theft or vandalism of political signs is a crime in all 50 states. Trespassing on private property is also a punishable offense in every state. 

“Increased theft and vandalism of political signs has prompted some property owners to attempt to catch trespassers by installing cameras such as security cameras, smart video doorbells, or trail cams. The footage is being used to shame people online and also helps law enforcement track down offenders.

“Avoiding criminal charges is a good reason not to steal or vandalize political yard signs. Another one is that doing so is stifling free speech. The right of a property owner to post signs representing their political beliefs is one that is rooted in the First Amendment, which protects every citizen’s right to freedom of expression.”