Yard sign theft both illegal and punishable

By Joe Bennett

November 6, 2012 Updated Nov 6, 2012 at 3:27 PM CDT

TAZEWELL COUNTY, Ill -- Someone in Pat and Karen Underwood's neighborhood does not approve of their political endorsement.

"We only had one out here," Karen Underwood said as she points to an Obama sign in the yard. "We thought, 'OK, we'll go get four and put them out.' So they took all of those except for this one that's closest to the house."

Twice this year, the Underwoods have had Barack Obama signs stolen from their front yard in Groveland.

It happened to them once in '08, and it happened to Karen's mom up the street.

In an attempt to ward off the suspected thieves, they have even displayed hand-printed messages below the last election signs they picked up from the Democratic party.

"This is not an unusual happening," Pat Underwood said. "I mean they had a lady in there that it's happened five times to her."

Chairman of the Peoria County Democratic Party Billy Halstead says this is something typical of every election year.

However, Sheriff Bob Huston says it is not being reported much this year in Tazewell County.

In the past, Huston says charges were filed against some thieves who paid hefty fines for the signs.

"If it's against the law, don't do it," Sheriff Huston warned. "It's wrong, it's illegal, it can lead to an arrest, and it can lead to a criminal record."

And this close to an election, Halstead says there are better ways to help your political party.

"If there's any Democrats out there stealing signs, please give us a call," Halstead said only half-jokingly. "We'll find something else for you to do. We've got plenty of work to do."

The Underwoods just want it to stop.

They say if anyone has a problem with their vote, they prefer that person knocks on the door.