Although Wellesley’s 2023 town election is over and the voters have spoken, the dust is far from settled due to a political sign stealing spree that targeted a specific candidate. Wellesley police received reports from 17 individuals who had signs in support of Neal Glick for School Committee taken from their property between March 5-6. (Glick did not win either of the open seats in the March 7 election.)
The officer investigating the incident was able to identify the male party, a Wellesley resident, who admitted to the officer that he took some of the missing signs. No arrest has been made. However, the individual will be summonsed to court, likely in 4-6 weeks, for three counts of trespassing, one count of larceny under $1,200 and one count of interfering with campaign material, according to a Wellesley Police Department representative.
In a telephone interview with The Swellesley Report, Glick said that on the morning of Monday, March 6, he started to hear from some supporters who were hosting his political yard signs that they were gone. The police began receiving reports about the thefts, and Glick says he went to the WPD to file a complaint. “The police were taking it very seriously,” he said.
Glick says police have confirmed to him the identity of the alleged perpetrator, and that he is a person known to Glick and with whom he has had past dealings of a business nature.
Police said because an arrest was not made, the alleged perpetrator’s name will not be made public until the court hearing.
For Glick’s part, he is determined to see the legal process through to its conclusion. “I am pursuing this not because I lost the election. It’s not sour grapes. I accept the judgment of the voters. The reason I care about this is because I care about this town,” Glick said, citing a climate of incivility that swirls around each election cycle. “I’m tremendously discouraged,” he said.
We’re tremendously discouraged, too. Political sign stealing has been a rampant problem in Wellesley, seemingly since political signs have existed. We’ve been reporting on sign stealing—an activity that at its core is an attack on free speech and property rights —since at least 2008.
We’d been contacted in late February by an advisor to School Committee candidate Christina Horner that at least 5 signs displayed by her supporters had been swiped, so we were on alert. The Glick sign thefts, followed by the police calls, took things to a new level.
Such incidents keep the WPD busy during every election cycle. Most often the sign swipers are kids, and generally the juveniles and their families are informed by the WPD that removing signs from an individual’s property is a theft that can result in criminal charges. Sometimes college students, exasperated by the slow pace in which town government moves when compared with how quickly they’re able to push forward change on their own campuses, are responsible. A couple of years ago, local college students were busted after tracking devices put into signs led WPD straight to their dorm rooms. Black Lives Matter signs are also popular targets, presumably stolen by those who hold the opposite viewpoint.
We don’t, however, recall a case in which an adult past college age stands accused of sign stealing, and neither did the WPD representative we spoke with. That may change as more and more residents equip their homes with relatively inexpensive security cameras that capture nice, crisp images of things like the make and model of a vehicle, and its license plate number.