Some residents feel targeted after string of stolen campaign signs in Tree Streets neighborhood

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As Americans prepare for the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, many are making their voices heard and showing their support for the candidate of their choice.

Yard signs with differing party affiliations can be seen all across the Tri-Cities, but members of one political party told News Channel 11 they’ve become a target in one Johnson City neighborhood.

Sam Pettyjohn lives in the Tree Streets and said one morning he woke up to his yard signs supporting Joe Biden for president missing from his yard. He said it was no accident, a number of neighbors also expressed that their signs were missing from their yards as well.

“Some people have signs for real estate and construction and things like that that we’re in the same yards and those have all stayed. So it’s clear they were taking the political signs out of people’s yards,” said Pettyjohn.

One man who has cameras in his front yard was able to catch a quick glimpse of what appears to be a teenager removing the signs from the yard.

Kate Craig Chair of the Washington County, Tennessee Democratic Party said she received 10 emails of people requesting replacement signs following this incident. When just two weeks ago, they had distributed over 230 signs across the area.

“Majority of the signs stolen were in the Tree Streets, honestly. There were a couple scattered throughout the rest of town but it was like the Tree Streets got targeted,” said Craig.

However, Pettyjohn told News Channel 11, this won’t silence him. This time around, he opted for a larger sign, standing 4×8 feet in his front lawn, a sign that will certainly be harder to remove.

JCPD says at this time, no official reports have been filed regarding the theft of signs but still want to remind the public, it is a crime.

“Anything under $1,000 in the state of Tennessee is a misdemeanor, so you’re looking at a misdemeanor offense,” said Lt. Andy Hodges with the Johnson City Police Department.

According to Craig, it’s a crime said to be happening frequently in this election cycle. “This is something happening rampantly across the state, even with signs being spray painted, torn down, stolen… and the way it’s happening, I’ve never seen it happen in this magnitude,” she said.

Now that the signs have been replaced, residents in the Tree Streets hope these stay for good. Pettyjohn, however, strives to make a lesson of this. He encourages anyone with a differing political opinion to voice your opposition through volunteer work for your political party, not theft. He also encourages creating a dialogue.

“I just wish we could talk about it more than people just coming onto private property and stealing,” said Pettyjohn.

JCPD police said signs placed on residential property is considered private property. “This is people’s property. They have a right to put the signs in their yard that they see fit. Just because you don’t agree with certain signage, whatever it may be, doesn’t give you the right to remove something from someone else’s property because it’s still their property,” said Lt. Hodges.

If you are in need of replacement democratic party signs you can contact Kate Craig at wctndp@gmail.com.

News Channel 11 also reached out to representatives with the republican party in Washington County, Tennessee regarding the matter to see if they had also had any signs stolen.

Dr. Turney Williams is the chair of the Washington County Republicans. He said that he receives phone calls daily about signs stolen.

“We just don’t call the press or the police and simply move on,” Turney said. “It should not occur but always does and likely will continue particularly in this hyper-partisan election cycle.”

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