‘Senseless stealing of political signs’ frustrates GOP and Democrats in Shelton

Photo of Brian Gioiele
This Trump/Pence political sign was recently vandalized. Signs representing candidates from both parties have been targeted by thieves and vandals

This Trump/Pence political sign was recently vandalized. Signs representing candidates from both parties have been targeted by thieves and vandals

Anthony Simonetti / Republican Town Committee

SHELTON — The theft and vandalism of several political signs endorsing Republican candidates is another sign of an overly contentious election season, according to the city’s GOP committee chair.

“This senseless stealing of political signs is a testament to the opposition’s fear and their desperation of losing the election on Nov. 3,” Anthony Simonetti said.

Democrats have noted the same political intensity this year.

“People feel deeply about their candidate and that leads some to strike out at the opposition,” Democratic Town Committee Chair David Gioiello said. “I don’t condone it on either side. But when you have a candidate that encourages his followers to violence, what do you expect?”

In most presidential election years, the display of signs is — with some exceptions — a respected right of free expression. But local political experts say signs and other campaign materials for the national race this season are being stolen and vandalized at a higher rate than in previous years.

“People have strong feelings about who occupies the Oval Office,” said Wesley Renfro, associate dean and associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac University.

Besides Shelton, signs have also been reported stolen or defaced in Stamford, Darien, Orange and West Haven.

Simonetti said the Shelton Republican Town Committee filed two reports with Shelton police in connection with two 4-by-8 signs that have been damaged or stolen. Both were vandalized with spray paint, according to Simonetti.

Simonetti said he has received numerous calls to replace Trump/Pence lawn signs that are missing from the homes — many of whom are registered Republicans, as well as some Democrats.

Gioiello said he condemns sign stealing but had little sympathy for the GOP complaint.

“I have experienced political signs stolen from my yard for the last 15 years. This is the first time that the Republicans are experiencing it,” he said. “When we complained in the past, nothing was done. I guess free speech works only one way.”

Gioiello said he and his neighbor both had their Joe Biden signs stolen, “along with several others that I know of. No one did a police report that I know about.”

The reports are not new to the city — two weeks ago, police arrested Taylor Dyrek, 31, of Shelton, for allegedly vandalizing Trump campaign signs in a White Hills neighborhood.

Dyrek was charged with second-degree criminal mischief, police said. According to police reports, during the early-morning hours of Sept. 25, police said, Dyrek was photographed spray-painting the word “dump” above Trump’s name on two signs.

“The citizen took a photograph of Dyrek and his vehicle and posted it on a community Facebook page,” Shelton Police Detective Richard Bango said. “The Shelton Police Department was subsequently contacted and after an investigation, Dyrek was taken into custody.”

Dyrek was released on a $500 non-surety bond and is due in Derby Superior Court on Dec. 2.

As for the more-recent incidents, Simonetti said a Trump sign at Maple Avenue and Route 110 was removed. A sign for state Rep. Ben McGorty sitting near the Huntington Green was also vandalized. Another Trump sign at Maple and East Village Road was spray painted but then successfully repainted, Simonetti added, before it was then stolen.

“A witness reported to police that it was two red-headed women in a 4-door reddish-brown Honda who pulled it out of the ground, folded it and placed in their vehicle and drove off,” Simonetti said. “The Honda had only half of a front bumper and no license plate on it.”

Shelton police confirmed the description of the suspects and said they remain active investigations. Anyone with information is asked to call the police at 203-924-1544.

Includes prior reporting by staff writer Pam McLoughlin.