The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Jim Lee 

Sign theft a crime against freedom


October 16, 2004

I don’t know how a person can sprain an ankle by accidentally poking a thumb into a reciprocating saw — I’ll have to ask Ed Miller about that because he’s an expert in such matters. However, I did figure out why the Earth is spherical. If our planet were flat like a Frisbee, canyons could not exist because people would fall through.

As a master of the obvious, I can quite easily figure this out, but something else leaves me more confused than a dog at a flea circus: Why do people steal yard signs?

I don’t understand this any more than I understand vandalism. Why bother breaking the law and violating the rights of other people when there is no material gain from the act? Yard signs are given away in the first place, so how much can they be worth? It’s like bopping into a pawn shop to hock a candy wrapper.

Maybe some folks think stealing yard signs is no big deal. Well, I assume that stepping onto someone else’s yard without consent (trespassing) and taking something belonging to that person (theft) could be considered against the law. If so, it is not a prank, it is a crime.

If the motive is disagreement with what the sign says, then it is assuming the perpetrator’s freedom of expression is more valid than the victim’s.

I do not know if a specific ordinance or statute applies because I was unable to speak to anyone at the Portales Police Department. After a series of recordings upon calling the non-emergency number, I was abruptly cut-off by a cryptic recorded message saying my message was too short to record when I was not trying to leave a message but rather to speak with an actual breathing and speaking human type person. In all fairness to the police department, they could be understaffed and too busy for the call — and I did not call the emergency number. I assume 9-1-1 would have received immediate attention.

In the absence of information from the police, I called the municipal judge’s office. Unfortunately, that was how I found out (from yet another recording) it is closed on Fridays. So, I don’t know what fines or incarceration apply upon being found guilty of the crime(s), but I think I can assume perpetrators risk some sort of penalty. And, whether anybody cares or not these days, we do have a moral, ethical issue here.

My wife Saundra and I put out two yard signs: one for a presidential candidate and one for a state-representative candidate. It does not matter who these candidates are because the principle is the same. The presidential sign was stolen. We replaced it. It was stolen again, this time along with the state-representative sign.

This is wrong. People can disagree without resorting to trespassing and theft — or placing their Constitutional rights above the other person’s. This is not a prank or just a matter of politics, not any more than shoplifting or ripping up someone’s ballot.

The person or person’s who did this (and also to other Portales citizens), not only trampled onto our yard to commit the act, he/she/they also trampled on our rights.

It’s also wrong to grin and look the other way. Tolerating the loss of anyone’s rights is advocating the loss of everyone’s rights.

Do people still have a sense of right and wrong? Am I being old fashioned or naïve? Has society changed so much in the time I have spent on this Earth? Is this much ado about nothing? There are many, many things I don’t know, but I think I know right from wrong and that it is not right to be wronged, even in so-called trivial acts.


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