UNIONVILLE — Two Talbot County teenagers are facing theft charges after a Unionville woman said she saw them stealing a political sign from her yard, tracked them down and led them to the police.
The teens, 16 and 17, from Tilghman and Cordova, are alleged to have been driving in Unionville when they stopped outside a home, grabbed a Biden-Harris campaign sign from someone’s property, threw it in their trunk and drove off.
The woman from whom they stole said she saw the theft and pursued the teens by car from Unionville to Easton, where Talbot County sheriff’s deputies located them and searched the teens’ vehicle. Prior to the deputies’ arrival, the woman said the teens pulled over and asked her why she was following them.
She said she told them they took her campaign sign, and they said they thought they had lifted the sign from their friend’s house as a prank. The woman didn’t buy their story, she said.
After the woman’s encounter with the teens, three police cars pulled up where the cars had stopped and deputies searched the teens’ car, according to Patrick Firth, chair of the Talbot County Democratic Central Committee. Firth said the deputies found more campaign signs in the juveniles’ vehicle, though he didn’t know how many.
The woman subsequently filed a report with the county sheriff’s office. Capt. John Bollinger said the two minors were referred to juvenile services and released to their parents. Each teen was charged with theft under $100 for allegedly stealing a campaign sign valued at about $15.
Bollinger said the charge the teens are facing carries a maximum sentence of two years in a detention facility, but he said it’s unlikely that a first-time juvenile offender would be handed down such a sentence.
Firth said in an interview with The Star Democrat that while he wants the perpetrators of political sign vandalism and theft to face consequences, “arresting or prosecuting anyone in Talbot County, especially teenagers, is really not something anyone takes pleasure in.”
“We just want this to stop,” he said. “Members of this community have a right to express their beliefs without fear of retaliation or intimidation. It’s horrible when it comes to this, but people have to be held accountable for their actions, especially when violent, destructive behavior becomes a political tool to suppress and intimidate.”
The county’s Democratic Central Committee, Firth said, has spent roughly $1,500 on the campaign signage that is repeatedly tampered with across Talbot towns. “This is one instance of hundreds of instances. We just happened to be lucky and catch the two individuals who did it in this case,” he said.
Firth said he’s not looking for the minors who are charged in connection with Unionville woman’s stolen sign to serve jail time or even pay a fine. The kids, he said, should “meet, talk to and work with the people they target and attack, and I think that’s how we heal this.”
“I think the best way to heal the division in this country and this county is to have the difficult conversations we’re able to avoid through quarantine or shielding ourselves on the internet,” he said. “I’m concerned that it will continue to get worse until there are serious repercussions.”