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Sign of the times: Biden, Trump fans steal, damage placards

Steve Cickay, a Democratic activist, estimates that roughly 2,000 or 3,000 Biden signs have been "stolen, thrown in the woods or defaced".

This combination of file pictures created on 28 September 2020 shows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden(L) speaking in Tampa, Florida, on 15 September 2020 and US President Donald Trump speaking during an event for black supporters at the Cobb Galleria Centre on 25 September 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. Picture: AFP

NEWTOWN - The millions of signs that Americans place on their lawns during election season are increasingly being vandalized or removed by disgruntled neighbors, a sign of the acutely hostile political climate.

After signs expressing support for Democratic candidate Joe Biden disappeared twice from a road outside Newtown, Pennsylvania, Gayle Share-Raab covered the next one in vaseline and glitter to try to deter the thief, but to no avail.

Jack Worthington was fed up with his big, plastic Donald Trump signs vanishing. So he built his own, with plywood and screws as reinforcements. They are still up, for now.

Across the country, there are reports that signs are being stolen or damaged at an unprecedented rate.

The phenomenon is common every election year but appears to have taken off in 2016 before accelerating this year.

"I've never seen it like this in my lifetime," said Share-Raab.

Besides petroleum jelly, other means homeowners use to deter unwelcome visitors include grass-colored string, a coat of hair gel or honey, and a perimeter of barbed wire or even dog poop.

Steve Cickay, a Democratic activist, estimates that roughly 2,000 or 3,000 Biden signs have been "stolen, thrown in the woods or defaced" in Bucks County, where Newtown is located.

Worthington believes he has lost about a quarter of the 4,000 small pro-Trump signs that he has installed.

He sometimes manages to fix the larger ones, like the time someone altered a Trump-Pence sign into an obscene slogan on the grounds of a female 96-year-old Republican farmer.

"If they spray paint them, I'm OK with that, because it just makes the other side look really bad," says Worthington.

His father, Jim Worthington, founder of the People4Trump organization, says Republicans don't steal Democrats' signs because they "believe in law and order."

Cickay, a member of the Newtown Democrats, scoffs at that suggestion.

"They're supposed to be the champions of law or order and yet they are encouraging breaking the law," he says.

Newtown police say they receive several complaints a week but have yet to arrest anyone.

"The police feels like if they go after these folks they're going to look like they're picking sides. They prefer not to confront it," says Jim Worthington.