Both supporters and opponents of the Pickerington Local School District's Aug. 2 levy issue said last week their campaigns had been marred by thefts of political signs.

Both supporters and opponents of the Pickerington Local School District's Aug. 2 levy issue said last week their campaigns had been marred by thefts of political signs.

In the past few weeks, people on both sides of the issue have canvassed the local community to campaign for their causes, and have dotted the landscape with signs reflecting their respective positions.

Representatives of Vote FOR Pick Kids, a pro-levy group, and the Pickerington Patriots an anti- levy group, have both complained that a number of campaign signs placed in the public rights of way have been stolen.

"We put about 100 signs up," said Andy Russ, an attorney for the Pickerington Patriots. "About 90 were stolen and the rest were sandwiched on both sides (by pro-levy signs) so you couldn't see ours.

"We just want to join the debate," he said. "We want to make the community aware we are an opposing view, but I'm pretty sure the majority of (the signs) are gone."

A representative of Vote FOR Pick Kids said her group was "absolutely not" involved in removing the Patriots' signs. Conversely, Russ said his group didn't steal any Vote FOR Pick Kids' signs.

Vote FOR Pick Kids representatives estimated someone took more than 100 pro-levy signs from the public rights of way.

"Vote FOR Pick Kids does not condone the removal of the opponent's signs," said Amanda Tonjes, Vote FOR Pick Kids campaign chair. "Many more of our signs have disappeared and we've said nothing and just attributed it to the fact that this is what people do."

Pickerington Police officer Nathan Fries said his department received a report July 15 from a Vote FOR Kids member that said three of the group's signs had been removed from Diley Road and Fox Glen Drive and the Diley and Long road areas.

Likewise, the department received a report on July 19 from a Pickerington Patriot who said six of that group's signs were removed from several areas, including Refugee Road and Huntington Way and North Center Street and Stemen Road.

A representative of the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office said that office hadn't received any reports of political sign thefts from the Violet Township area.

Because the signs typically are valued at between $5 and $8, Fries said, the culprits could be found guilty of petty theft.

However, he said, determining who removed the signs is difficult. He also said it seems that sign thefts or relocations appears to be a time-honored, yet unfortunate, tradition in the Pickerington and Violet Township areas.

"It seems to be a pattern," Fries said. "Pretty much every time there's an election, somebody's putting signs in bushes or taking them entirely."

The city of Pickerington restricts candidates' political signs from being placed in public rights of way. Issue-oriented political signs can be placed in the rights of way if the city manager approves such action.

City manager Bill Vance said he permitted both pro- and anti-levy backers to place their respective signs in the public rights of way, and therefore no city officials removed the signs.

The fallout from this levy, however, might compel him to prohibit similar action in the future, he said.

"This could result in the city not allowing any political signs in the public right of way," Vance said.

In the meantime, Fries said, the Pickerington Police Department continues to investigate the reported thefts and patrol officers have been instructed to keep an eye out for the elusive sign bandits.

"This year, we have all these random locations where these signs are at, and it's difficult to keep an eye on all of them," he said. "We're definitely not ignoring it and we're trying to be as vigilant as we can."