To Catch A Thief – Epilogue

Posted: September 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

One really fun part of the PCO campaign that I never covered, mostly because it was so widely reported  elsewhere (see here and here ) was the incident involving John Ellis, the alleged political sign thief.  Mr. Ellis had apparently made it his mission in life to comb his neighborhood and rid it of political signs, wherever they might be posted on both public and private land. A number of campaigns, including those for Paul Harris and David Madore, had noticed a serious problem of missing signs in one area of East Vancouver that encompassed several precincts. They were at a loss in terms of a way to combat this problem, and so were content to chalk it up to unidentified Democrats and hang up new signs every few weeks.

Enter the PCO Liberty Alliance!

As three PCO candidates in that area had also found their signs missing and reported it, the PCOLA campaign leadership decided to invest in a camera and do a small experiment in a place where signs had been stolen on multiple occasions. Because most of the signs from the candidate in question had already been stolen, we had to make one out of spare parts (which was a comical process in itself). We set the camera up in an inconspicuous place, fixed directly on the makeshift sign. Schedules for staking out the location for the next several days were set up as well, but as it turned out, they were not necessary. Our Mr. Ellis took the bait the very first morning, only about eight hours after we had installed the camera. David Hedrick was also fortuitously in the area that morning and watching the sign and was able to follow the man and get further footage (see his video here ).

Once the video was taken, and Mr. Ellis recognized by people living nearby, PCOLA turned the information over to the police, who questioned him at his gym.  Apparently his story was that he was cleaning up the neighborhood of ugly political signs, and the police let him off, since this particular sign was posted on public property (those of us who saw the nearby site where he dumped all the stolen signs were a little more skeptical of this explanation). The media, including Victoria Taft, was less lenient, and Mr. Ellis found himself rather famous for a number of days thereafter.

The epilogue to this story is that since this incident and the following days of media coverage, that area of East Vancouver has once again become safe to hang signs. Paul Harris, who had lost a large number of his trademark yellow and red signs in that neighborhood, told us that he has had no issues there since ‘The Sting’. There has been a lot of inter-party consternation regarding PCOLA and their goals to change the party, but curiously, there has also been a steady stream of requests from among party regulars to borrow our camera.

I have long thought that once PCOLA’s goals have been given a fair hearing and tried, most in the party will actually be thanking us for making changes that others have always been hesitant to undertake. Hopefully, this is the first example among many. Perhaps there will even be cause to look forward to county conventions someday? One can always hope.

  1. Some bad-mannered individual ripped up the three campaign signs in front of my house (off Burton a little west of I-205) twice. Should be grateful, I suppose, that he, she, or they left the signs behind. Now the signs are behind a fence, on a berm, and have not been messed with again, so far. Probably just adolescents bring adolescent. Almost forgot — the signs are for Inslee, Cleveland, and Wiley. Neither party has a monopoly on stupid behavior.

    • The interesting thing about this case is that it challenges all of our assumptions about sign thieves. We assume when our political signs go missing that it is either an evil operative from another side of the political spectrum, or one of those ubiquitous roaming bands of teenagers bent on destruction. The guy we caught in the act, however, doesn’t appear to fit in either category. He may have taken special delight in removing Republican signs, but we did find a Roman Battan one in his pile as well (there is no word on whether Mr. Ellis subscribed to the Columbian’s theory that Battan was actually a Republican plant). I think it’s possible that he is just a sign nazi, like the sort of people who end up on HOA boards so that they can plague their neighbors for painting their front door the wrong color, or not cutting the grass just so. He is probably a Democrat, and I know that he votes regularly, but I doubt that the trampling of people’s 1st amendment rights was a function of his agenda for higher taxes or government health care.

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