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story.lead_photo.caption The initials for Black Lives Matter are spray painted over Trump-Pence campaign signs in front of the Missouri Soybean Association. The signs have been left up to show they've been tampered with. Signs for both liberal and conservative candidates have been reported as vandalized recently. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

The Jefferson City Police Department has received calls recently about political signs being stolen.

"The calls have been from both political parties," JCPD spokesman Lt. David Williams said. "We have had local candidates in current races and even some from the previous races that had signs damaged and stolen."

Cole County Republican Central Committee Chairwoman Penny Quigg said she thinks it's "kids" who are primarily responsible.

"It's not something that members of our party would do, and I don't think Democrats would be involved," Quigg said. "Political sign vandalism happens often. We had signs vandalized near the Missouri Soybean Association building on South Country Club Drive. We actually left those up to show that they can be vandalized."

Cole County Democrat Central Committee Chairman Josh Dunne said they are encouraging their members to bring their political signs closer to their homes at night to try to curb the threat of vandalism.

"It could be someone wanting to just do vandalism, but most of the time, we've seen this happen to signs supporting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden," Dunne said. "So we assume it's people primarily against his campaign and supporting Republican President Donald Trump."

"Election sign vandalism happens in most elections, but I do think it's worse this time," Quigg said. "Our party believes in the First Amendment right of free speech, and I don't think our members would do something against that right."

Quigg and Dunne said it is hard to prove who is responsible when political signs are stolen or vandalized.

State statute considers political sign vandalism an election offense, Cole County Prosecutor Locke Thompson said. The offense would be a misdemeanor for which a person could face up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 or both, he said.

"The damage would have to occur to a sign on private property," Thompson said.

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