Protect My Yard Sign
October 12, 2008 6:58 PM   Subscribe

I am having trouble with some kids stealing my political yard signs. Four are gone so far, although they are only targeting the presidential signs not the down ticket races. The signs are on my property near the street (~6-10ft from the road). Is there a particular substance that would maintain the cleanliness of the signs, cause immediate distress to anyone touching the signs, and not permanently harm them?

I've already recorded one of the thefts on video and I am in the process of deciding what to do with that video. But that isn't the point of this question.

What I'd like to do is protect my signs. I would like to smear some substance on them that would be either disgusting or mildly annoying to any person touching them. Some thoughts were dog shit, poison ivy, or mace. I'm planning on providing a warning sign on each sign but, based on the behavior I've seen, they won't be noticed until after the theft anyway.
posted by mshellenberger to Home & Garden (47 answers total)
Apparently, this is national problem.
posted by micawber at 7:04 PM on October 12, 2008

Someone just asked this the other day...
posted by lee at 7:05 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Fiberglass insulation? Pepper spray? Hot sauce?
posted by Verdandi at 7:05 PM on October 12, 2008

show the cops the video & put Vaseline on the sings the poop idea is good too but is hit & miss
posted by patnok at 7:06 PM on October 12, 2008

You are asking how to create an attractive nuisance. I suggest you immediately reconsider your plan.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:06 PM on October 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Trespassing and theft are crimes. If the police won't defend your rights, vaseline and chili powder.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:08 PM on October 12, 2008

I have a feeling a discouragement for theft would only become an encouragement for destruction.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:11 PM on October 12, 2008

OK how about rocksalt?
posted by patnok at 7:13 PM on October 12, 2008

Disgusting: Dog shit, blood meal mixed with water, fish meal.

Painful to annoying: Capsaicin deer repellent, Tiger Balm, dump some poison ivy around the base.

I wouldn't worry about the attractive nuisance part - the damages one could recover for getting covered in dog shit are likely pretty low.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:18 PM on October 12, 2008

Thanks for the quick responses. I knew I'd get something useful from AskMeFi.

micawber - Yeap, I've done the google on this. It is a big local problem as well, according to the local political parties.

lee - thanks for the link. I searched but obviously I wasn't using the right terms.

Verdandi - I thought those might not hold up to prolonged outdoor usage...but reapplication isn't a problem. And pepper spray is simple to apply.

patnok - cops are an option. I am coordinating with local political party to have maximum impact and response. BTW, rocksalt?

ikkyu2 - part of the reason I posted to AskMeFi.

Inspector - Not interested in risking it...for a few signs...not worth it...yet.

Blazecock - I agree and it is what bothered me about the whole situation. Kids are kids, but respecting property rights is something I should expect from someone old enough to drive.

dirigibleman - also a thought I had. I'm not interested in creating little hooligans for the neighborhood or myself.

I think it comes down to showing the video to the police and coordinating with the local party. I'm also going to put up a handmade sign closer to the house...with a video camera on it at all times....and a warning that they are being recorded. The house is set back from the road enough that someone can't claim they were just walking by if they could get close enough to read the warning.

I'll wait on the discouragement for the time being. But I am leaning towards dog, disgusting, and long lasting.

Thanks everyone!
posted by mshellenberger at 7:24 PM on October 12, 2008

"Hey dudes! They put the sign back up! Let's finish off these 40s and smoke a bowl and go rip 'em out again!"


"Hey dude, I'm gettin the sign! I'm gettin the sign .. Oh my god! It's covered in dog shit! Ewww I'm gonna huck it! FORE!"

(hurls sign)

"EEEEEYyaaaah! Ow! My eye! My eye!"

"Hey dude! You've got a Sarah Palin sign stickin out of your eye! Covered in dogshit! That sucks! Hurf durf!"

The eye gets infected with bacteria that are normally present in dogshit. The globe has to be removed. Meanwhile, as often occurs in injuries to the eye globe, an autoimmune reaction against eye protein develops that deprives the young teen delinquent of sight in his remaining eye.

If that's a dime less than $250,000 liability, I'll eat the sign myself.

There's no way to guard against this kind of thing. Putting the sign back up is probably enough to make it an attractive nuisance; parts of it are sharp.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:25 PM on October 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

The "attractive nuisance" concept seems to revolve around children. Do you really think it's children who are stealing the signs? Is there a reason why campaign signs would be particularly "attractive" to children?
posted by neroli at 7:25 PM on October 12, 2008

Is it that hard to get new signs? You could get one up on them by adding even more signs every time they take one batch down.

I would not mess with poison ivy... it's perfect justice, but it is an oil that can spread, and innocent people/tots at their house could get hurt.
posted by crapmatic at 7:34 PM on October 12, 2008

Electricity? A good 12v tingle shouldn't hurt anyone, but will keep the little bastard's hands off your stuff. A better choice might be a floodlight and simple alarm circuit.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:37 PM on October 12, 2008

If your local broadcast news is complete crap like it is every single place I have ever lived, go show them the video, and they will make it their top story.

They'll ignore stuff like genocide in Sudan, but even a grainy, shaky, blurry video of someone stealing a campaign sign will make them squeal with delight.
posted by 4ster at 7:46 PM on October 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

You need one of these.

Pepper spray won't stop people stealing your signs, they won't notice they touched it until they get it in their eyes or somewhere else sensitive later on.
posted by fshgrl at 8:00 PM on October 12, 2008

A good 12v tingle shouldn't hurt anyone, but will keep the little bastard's hands off your stuff

And then they'll throw a rock through your window. You showed them!
posted by smackfu at 8:00 PM on October 12, 2008

Encase your signs in a giant block of Lucite. Arty, fun for the whole family, and no one will bother moving it.
posted by jackofsaxons at 8:13 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

A good 12v tingle shouldn't hurt anyone, but will keep the little bastard's hands off your stuff.

12V will be imperceptible unless they're licking the sign. You'd want an electric fence setup.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:20 PM on October 12, 2008

Are the signs being stolen after it gets dark or in broad daylight? If the former, have you considered bringing the signs in before it gets dark (when they are less visible anyway)?
posted by pmbuko at 8:25 PM on October 12, 2008

Good luck. If these kids are anything like me and my a-hole friends were in high school, you probably don't want to escalate. An escalation in the form of pepper spray, dog shit, cameras, alarms, anything with the exception of calling the cops, will be seen as an invitation to escalate further on their part. You probably don't want that. Just trust me on this one, because I won't elaborate further.

In short, this is not a battle you can win. Put your signs back up. They're FREE from the campaign office for chrissake.
posted by zhivota at 8:25 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

If they're wearing gloves, then any kind of noxious substance may not be very effective.

Attach a laptop theft alarm between the sign and an a piece of rebar hammered into the lawn.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:27 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Talk to the folks at Make. I'm not sure if this is a good investment in time given that you'll be removing the sign four weeks hence, but it would not be impossible to rig up something which takes a photo (from a distance) when the sign is touched. Make sure that there's a nice big FLASH when the sign is contacted. From multiple angles.

Alternatively, they have various small fireworks type items, noisemakers really, which go "bang" when a string is pulled. Attach several to a rock*, bury rock*, tie strings to sign ... so in the dead of night, when they yank ... bang.

Hell, do both.

*dense, mildly waterproof item of small value with surfaces suitable for attachment by string
posted by adipocere at 8:32 PM on October 12, 2008

I second ikkyu2's reference to the liability involved in creating an attractive nuisance.

Cop it sweet. Don't escalate. You are politicking at ppl walking / driving past your house. If they respond by taking your sign I would think that is within the game that you have started by putting up the sign in the first place. As someone else has pointed out the signs are free. Just put up a new one. Or maybe keep your political opinions (Democrat, Republican, whatever) off your front lawn? Has always seemed rather crass behaviour to me.
posted by Sitegeist at 8:39 PM on October 12, 2008

dig a hole about the size of a bucket or whatever, fill it with quickcrete, bend the bottom of the sign into a hook and imbed it in the concrete. the more concrete, the better!
posted by Mach5 at 8:50 PM on October 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

mach5 has it. you want to make this thing heavy and tough to carry away. pissing kids off won't do much good.

local news and video tape on the other hand is a great combination .
posted by krautland at 9:23 PM on October 12, 2008

Signs aren't free.

I believe that signs on lawns has been considered protected speech as long as people have been putting signs on lawns (at least in this country). Also, it is on my property. That is theft/trespass.

I'm heading to the police with the DVD of the video. I was hoping to post it online and spread some deterrence all over the signs, but it is time to act like the adult I am and bring this to the attention of the local authorities. It's a small township. Perhaps these kids or their car will look familiar. I withhold the right to post it at a later time...depending on the response I get from the police.

Thanks again for the ideas.
posted by mshellenberger at 9:25 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

>>smoke a bowl and go rip 'em out again!

I think weed smokers are probably the least of anyone's worries when it comes to Obama signs being stolen. Just a hunch.
posted by SaintCynr at 10:09 PM on October 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey, who said it was Obama? Maybe these are McCain signs being pulled down by disabled Iraq vets.

On the "putting stuff on the sign" front, how about anti-climb paint? Maybe you could DIY some with vaseline or oil and a stain or dye.

I like the "encase in Lucite" idea (or "cast it out of concrete" for that matter). Concrete is fun!

But the most bang for your buck is probably to get a dozen signs, plan to put up a new one every day, and complain to the cops each time one goes missing. It is, as you say, theft/vandalism. Even if the cops do nothing, the vandals will probably get bored eventually.
posted by hattifattener at 10:29 PM on October 12, 2008

Small sign or notice saying, "For every sign stolen I donate $50 to the candidate. Please steal away!"

Supposedly it's worked for other people in your situation . . .
posted by flug at 11:44 PM on October 12, 2008 [4 favorites]

Small sign or notice saying, "For every sign stolen I donate $50 to the candidate. Please steal away!"

I'd have thought that would increase the incentive to steal: opponents will steal the sign to cause you financial hardship, and spporters would steal it to increase their candidates funds. And surely you wouldn't go back on your promise to donate?

Signs aren't free.

Maybe it's people who would like a sign but can't afford one that are stealing them? You're helping the poor spread the message..
posted by Nugget at 12:24 AM on October 13, 2008

A neighbor has a problem with deer leaning over his fence and eating his flowers. He picked up something at a gardening store that combines a motion detector with lawn sprinkler; when motion is detected, one of those spinning arms jets water all over his lawn.

Works on the deer. Probably just annoying enough to deter the common vandal, without causing escalation.
posted by Cardinal Fang! at 1:42 AM on October 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

To recap: if they get hurt stealing your sign, it is your fault, and you are responsible for their blindness. If you attempt to deter them from coming on your property, you are escalating the situation, and will regret it. If you take the video to the cops, they will do nothing. Also, you probably deserve it, because if you put up signs, other people clearly have the right to steal them.
posted by Nothing at 2:39 AM on October 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think vaseline is your best bet. Greasy, gross, and just plain slimy.
posted by cachondeo45 at 4:18 AM on October 13, 2008

I'm loving the motion-activated water sprayer... Bonus points if it's one of those pop-up-from-nowhere type - the kind you can't see... This time of year it's getting cooler - and getting wet isn't quite as fun... Hmm, I'd also love to see the concrete idea... If you get the video of them trying and failing, post it for the world to see :) Good luck.
posted by chrisinseoul at 4:44 AM on October 13, 2008

*cause immediate distress to anyone touching the signs*??

You mean like rigging it up to an electrical outlet and zapping the bejezus out of anyone who touched one?
posted by watercarrier at 4:56 AM on October 13, 2008

Kids in my neighborhood were trashing/stealing my sign by coming by on skateboards or bikes and reaching down and snagging it. I took a heavy piece of garden art made out of metal and wired the sign to it. Not quick and easy to mess with any more so it hasn't been bothered since. Just making it a little less convenient seems to work well.

I have friends who favor the vasoline method. I like the pledge of donating more money for each sign stolen though!
posted by leslies at 4:58 AM on October 13, 2008

Take your signs indoors and display them in your windows.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:25 AM on October 13, 2008

I wouldn't put a substance on the sign. If you want to be a passive-aggressive A-hole then put fresh poop on the grass around the sign. Otherwise put out a theft-proof sign and sleep easy at night.
posted by JJ86 at 5:45 AM on October 13, 2008

vaseline and chili powder

This came up in the other question, too, and I have to ask: How is this supposed to work? I get that unexpected vaseline is gross, but what exactly does the chili powder add to the equation? It's not like I'm going to rub my eyes with my vaseline covered hands or anything.
posted by mediareport at 7:48 AM on October 13, 2008

Or maybe keep your political opinions (Democrat, Republican, whatever) off your front lawn? Has always seemed rather crass behaviour to me.

Well, garden gnomes, Mother-Mary-in-the-bathtubs, and pink flamingos is crass to ME, but I still think it's criminal to steal those things off someone's lawn. This is no different. A person's property is a person's property, and they have the right to express whatever opinion they like ON that property, whether that message be "Re-elect Mayor Quimby" or "I like kitschy crap". And along WITH that right comes the right to NOT have people steal that message off your lawn. Period.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 AM on October 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's annoying. It's insulting because some young doofuses are messing with your right to free speech.

Put up a sign saying "My signs are being stolen. Please respect my right to Freedom of Speech" That will be compelling to reasonable people who see it.

Got access to dog/cat/horse/cow, etc. shit? Post new signs, then liberally plant the area around them with fresh shit. Shitty shoes is an excellent payback for sign theft. Tabasco on the signs is also fair game.

Webcam & good lighting is a good idea.
posted by theora55 at 9:27 AM on October 13, 2008

I hope you're prepared for some retribution for your tactics; your actions may escalate the situation and make your life a living hell. I stole my share of yard gnomes/signs/reflectors when I was in high school, and if someone deliberately tried to get me messy/stinky or whatever, we would have probably vandalized his property. I wasn't the biggest jackass in high school, but I was irresponsible...and irresponsible people are the ones taking yer stuff.
posted by pepcorn at 9:30 AM on October 13, 2008

"I believe that signs on lawns has been considered protected speech..."
"It's insulting because some young doofuses are messing with your right to free speech."

The Constitution prevents the government from abridging your freedom of speech. Unless these people are stealing your signs, the issue is one of theft, not of Freedom of Speech.

My advice? Don't be too crazy. I drive by "The Town Nut" every day, who did stuff like this in 2004. Four years later, he's still The Town Nut. Not just by me, but by a lot of people who formed similar opinions about him. If you plant poison ivy or barbed wire or dog shit around your signs, you're going to look like an incredibly unfriendly neighbor. (And the joke's on you, because you're handling poison ivy, barbed wire, or dog shit.) If it does end up impacting the sign thieves, they're only going to retaliate.

Cement was the best idea, but even then, I don't think it's a good one: it'd still be easy to rip/cut the plastic sign, leaving you with a metal frame sticking out of a giant block of concrete in your front yard.

Bring it in at night, or keep a sprinkler running all night. That would waste a lot of water, though.
posted by fogster at 10:43 AM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Play with their heads. Get some signs from the opposing candidate, as well as from the candidate of your choice. Alternate. Maybe mix some posters of Madonna, Herman Munster, Winnie The Pooh in there, too. See if they have any senses of humor.
posted by Forrest Greene at 11:19 AM on October 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Putting the sign back up is probably enough to make it an attractive nuisance; parts of it are sharp.

Putting the sign up a second (third, fourth, etc.) time makes it no more of an attractive nuisance than putting it up the first time.
posted by oaf at 11:25 AM on October 13, 2008

(Assuming that you do nothing but replace the sign—no vaseline, feces, etc.)
posted by oaf at 11:25 AM on October 13, 2008

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