Easthampton police nab two for pro-police sign thefts

  • Two teens allegedly stole these lawn signs overnight on Sunday. EASTHAMPTON POLICE DEPARTMENT

Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2020 8:10:18 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Police have issued criminal summons against two teenagers for allegedly stealing pro-police lawn signs overnight on Sunday.

Four officers responded to a call shortly before 2:30 a.m. alleging that two people had taken his and his neighbors’ law signs that say, “We support our law enforcement officers.” Eventually, Easthampton police — with assistance from Northampton police, who spoke to the parents of one of the suspects — detained two people, according to a police log of the incident.

“If you have signs stolen from your property please do not hesitate to report the theft to us,” Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti said in a social media post Sunday, noting that police recovered more than 24 signs from the suspects in this case. “If you have had a sign stolen in the past few weeks, please contact our station and arrange to come get your sign.”

The two suspects were an 18-year-old woman and a 17-year-old boy from Florence. Easthampton police redacted their names from the police log, and the Gazette typically does not identify minors in criminal matters. Police issued the two suspects criminal summons for charges of larceny under $1,200 and vandalizing property.

In his social media post, Alberti said that sign theft is very common during election season.

In 2017, the Gazette reported on the theft of many lawn signs in Easthampton that read: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” written in English, Spanish and Arabic.

And in Northampton, the theft of a controversial yard sign — depicting a hug between a white man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and a black person wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt — caused a dust-up on social media. Elsewhere, 11 signs displaying haiku poetry were reportedly stolen from the Hadley dike in mid-August.

In his statement, Alberti claimed that the police department had received “dozens of reports” of the pro-law enforcement signs being stolen in the past several weeks. Asked to clarify exactly how many reports, Lt. Dennis Scribner — a spokesman for the department — said the number wasn’t immediately accessible. He said he recalled several calls from residents in recent mornings about multiple signs being stolen.

“I couldn’t give you an exact count without doing some intensive record digging,” Scribner said, adding that police received a report overnight Monday of two more similar signs being vandalized.

The police department’s Facebook post about the incident drew nearly 100 comments, 61 shares and news stories from outlets across the state. Many of the comments praised city police for their action.

Several posts, however, were more critical. Jason Montgomery, a city resident and activist with the group 01027: A Knee Is Not Enough, said that he had chatted with several city residents who had Black Lives Matter signs stolen but reportedly didn’t receive much urgency from police.

“When they called to say their sign was stolen they were told that it was teenagers and that they should relax,” Montgomery said in a phone interview Monday.

In response to Montgomery’s assertions on Facebook, the Easthampton Police Department account said that this year two signs supporting Black Lives Matter, two supporting Joe Biden and seven supporting Donald Trump have been reported stolen.

“There were no suspects, the perpetrators were not in the area after the commission of the crimes, signs were not recovered and no one was caught,” the department’s post reads. “In this instance, the community member called as the theft was taking place … We will take the reports of any and all stolen signs, as they are all stolen property and a crime.”

These particular pro-law enforcement signs have popped up over the summer in Easthampton lawns across the city as protests against police brutality and racism continue across the country as part of the larger Black Lives Matter movement.

Scribner, the police spokesman, said that the signs are made locally by the Reardon family.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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