To catch a thief: Miffed neighbor ensnares a perp

“You can take our sign but you can't take our vote!!”

The hand-lettered Charlotte sign and others like it are evidence that, as usual, Campaign '08 includes a bit of thievery.

Tales of stolen signs are probably as old as the custom of proclaiming your support with a front-yard poster. If your sign gets stolen, your first impulse is probably to suspect roving bands of Democratic (or Republican) rogues intent on changing the course of history and muzzling your First Amendment free speech rights.

Overall, in our experience, sign thefts don't favor one party or the other. But this year especially, people's passions are hot – probably overheated by scary robocalls, bogus phone “surveys,” TV ads blaming candidates for all kinds of misdeeds and enough mailed flyers to cripple even vigorous postal carriers. Because yard signs are so much more decorous and civil, the thefts are particularly galling, in an already galling campaign climate.

So Shawn Turschak in Chapel Hill, who lost two sets of McCain-Palin signs, decided to catch a thief. Using equipment from an electric pet fence, he wired up his sign, then aimed a camera at it, and waited.

Whom did he catch? A roving band of ACORN-loving, socialist-leaning, commie liberal pinko thugs? Drunken frat boys? (After all, it was Chapel Hill).

None of the above. He snagged a 9-year-old kid, who got a mild shock.

The boy's mother says she thought Turschak's sign was posted in community property, because the homeowners' association maintains it, and thought it wasn't right to have only one party represented. Whatever.

We think the kid got off easy. Comments posted on the (Raleigh) News & Observer's web site suggested nastier revenge: Smear signs with sticky corn syrup, so it gums up thieving hands and their vehicles. Rub signs with poison ivy/poison oak juice. (But, um, wouldn't that give you a rash, too?) Try “a mixture of Vaseline and skunk scent.” Yuck.

The moral of this editorial: It's wrong to take campaign signs. And you might end up with a really stinky rash.