As the country prepares for an election that has been contentious all around, local police departments have seen an increase in the theft of political signs.

Hudson, River Falls and New Richmond police departments all report they’ve seen a higher number of sign thefts compared to recent election seasons.

“In the back of your mind you kind of figure that there was going to be a spike in the theft and destruction and defacing of the political signs this year because of how contentious this particular race is,” Hudson Chief Geoff Willems said. “What we’ve seen is now going in line with what we expected.”

In Hudson, Willems said supporters of Joe Biden and Donald Trump have both experienced thefts. The incidents have been isolated, with one sign taken at a time, rather than a string of thefts.

Deputy Chief John Albert said he didn’t think thefts were too much higher than normal, though he said there are likely more signs out this year. The thefts haven’t followed any political pattern, he said, with both political parties being affected.

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New Richmond hasn’t seen any vandalism, but thefts are definitely up this year, Sgt. Jake Sather said.

The majority of lawn signs reported stolen in New Richmond have been Biden or Black Lives Matter, Sather said, but some Trump signs have been reported stolen as well.

The majority of the signs were taken during a few incidents, with some reports coming in later.

Willems advised anyone who has had a theft to report it to their police department, and most importantly, don’t retaliate.

“Respect others' individual rights,” he said.

By the numbers

The Star-Observer looked at reports of sign theft and damage reports in River Falls and Hudson over the course of 30 days from Sept. 20 to Oct. 20. They do not represent the total number of reports.

From Sept. 20 through Oct. 20, the Hudson police department had six reports of sign thefts or damage. Of those seven reports:

  • Four incidents were thefts, one incident was removal of a sign, one incident was damage

  • Four reports involved signs for Biden. One involved a sign for Trump. One did not note the political affiliation of the sign.

  • Two incidents involved more than one sign.

  • The highest loss reported was $50

  • Each report appeared to be an isolated incident, with each theft occurring on different days.

From Sept. 20 through Oct. 20, The River Falls Police Department had 22 reports of sign thefts. Of those 22 reports:

  • 19 involved signs for Biden and/or Democrat candidates. Three involved signs for Trump and/or Republican candidates.

  • Two cases involved signs being damaged with graffiti.

  • Six incidents involved more than one sign.

  • Two incidents involved signs for local candidates, one sign of Shannon Zimmerman, and one sign of Sarah Yacoub.

  • At least five incidents of more than one report from separate residences in a night. Six separate reports of theft were made on Sept. 20, involving residences on North Winter, Fourth, Dallas and Elm streets.

  • Three residences had more than one report of thefts over the 30-day period.