'Sign Thug' takes aim at political vandalism

Website offers reward for information; identity of founder a mystery

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 

On the Web

To report theft or vandalism in Vancouver (after the fact):

Vancouver Police Department

If you see a crime in progress, call 911.

An anonymous vigilante has emerged to protect political signs against the all-too-common act of vandalism — or at least that's how it appears.

Little is known about the person or group behind Signthug.com, a website offering up to $100 for information about political sign destruction or defacement.

The group's signs are being distributed in Clark and Cowlitz counties, according to media reports. The signs direct people to visit the Sign Thug website for details about the reward, but the website merely states that details will be forthcoming.

The logo on Sign Thug's website includes an image of brass knuckles, and it provides this message for political sign vandals: "Don't these Sign Thugs know that purposeful damage to personal property including vandalism and graffiti is a gross misdemeanor and punishable up to 90 days to 1 year in jail with fines reaching $5,000.00!"

According to state law, removing or defacing a political advertisement is a misdemeanor (rather than a gross misdemeanor) that could result in a maximum of 90 days in jail and no more than a $1,000 fine.

Kyle Baxter was paid to create the website on behalf of the mysterious crusader, but Baxter said he could not reveal the name of his client. He also said he is not affiliated with his client's cause.

"They wanted to remain anonymous," said Baxter, of the Gig Harbor-based website design company Site Tonight. "I don't even know who they are."

Baxter gave the person behind Sign Thug a reporter's contact information, but The Columbian has yet to hear from the individual in question.

Yardsign.biz, the Woodland company responsible for printing and distributing the Sign Thug signs, declined to disclose the identity of Sign Thug's creator. The company, which also says it is not affiliated with its client's cause, has been distributing the signs at political party headquarters in Clark and Cowlitz counties.

Police should be the first point of contact for reporting property damage, not an anonymous website, Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said.

Anyone with information about political sign vandalism is encouraged to call the Vancouver police west precinct at 360-487-7355 during regular business hours, Kapp said. For those outside of Vancouver, call the Clark County Sheriff's Office at 360-397-2211.

If you see vandalism in the act, call 911, Kapp added.

Political sign theft or vandalism also can be reported through the Vancouver police website, http://vanpolice.org. Click the "make a police report online" button.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523; http://facebook.com/reportermathieu;http://twitter.com/col_politics;stevie.mathieu@columbian.com.