Couple feels targeted after Trump signs repeatedly stolen

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HAWI — In the more than 30 years Sandy Gray and her husband Rob Biggerstaff have lived in North Kohala, they’ve never had trouble feeling safe at home.


HAWI — In the more than 30 years Sandy Gray and her husband Rob Biggerstaff have lived in North Kohala, they’ve never had trouble feeling safe at home.

“I have never felt any kind of anxiety or fear or anything, and we’ve lived here all these years,” Gray said.

The couple moved to the Big Island in 1984 from Houston, in part to get away from the poor air quality there and also in hope of finding a place to grow their own food.

They found what they were looking for in Hawi.

“It was wonderful compared to what it was like in Houston,” Gray said.

But since the latter half of July, the couple said, they’ve been targeted.

On several occasions, the couple’s yard signs, which they posted in support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have gone missing.

It started after two signs set up alongside the couple’s pasture went missing.

Then more signs went missing, prompting Biggerstaff to secure signs to trees with washers and roofing screws.

Two of those signs were ripped from the trees, he said.

Finally, the couple’s Trump sign posted at the gate to their property disappeared.

“I didn’t think too terribly much about the first two signs being taken,” Gray said. “But then when it kept on and it got so nasty with the person going inside our fence and tearing down signs, that’s when I started feeling invaded.”

“And when we came home and saw the sign down right from our front gate, I was just shocked,” she added.

In total, seven of their eight signs have been torn down from the fence or trees.

At $20 each, that’s $140 worth of stolen property.

“It was unbelievable how it made me feel,” Gray said. “Not liking Trump is not a reason that you steal or destroy.”

It turns out, the North Hawaii couple, who declined to be photographed for this story, are far from alone. The presidential candidate’s outspoken tone and campaign appear to have sparked a flurry of sign thefts across the country according to media reports.

In the last month, news organizations in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Florida as well as CNN have all reported cases of the polarizing candidate’s signs being stolen from or damaged on supporters’ property.

The rash of thefts has prompted some supporters to take steps to protect their signs.

In July, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on a man who, after losing between 40 and 50 small signs and six larger signs, installed his signs on tall wooden beams anchored into concrete footings in the ground before surrounding them with barbed wire.

CNN reported on a Pennsylvania man who smeared roofing tar on his yard signs. If stolen, the tar would stick to thieves’ hands, transferring to clothes and vehicles.

But back to the Big Island, this isn’t the first time Gray and Biggerstaff have been the targets of signage theft. During the last election in 2014, a row of Margaret Wille signs was stolen from the couple’s property. Wille is the county councilwoman who represents North Kohala until the end of the year.

But, Gray said, when she set up another row of signs, there weren’t any more issues. Biggerstaff said the Wille signs they set up this year also were left untouched.

Aside from the yard signs, both Gray and Biggerstaff said they aren’t particularly vocal about their personal politics.

“We don’t talk politics except with people that we know want to hear what we have to say or know we want to hear what they have to say,” she said.

Biggerstaff said that while they generally know their neighbors’ political views, he avoids the subject entirely.

“I make it to where I don’t talk politics because I want to respect their boundary and what they believe,” he said.

The couple also displays a “Thin Blue Line” flag in honor of fallen police officers and said that has, at most, been met with curiosity from passersby about what it means.

“Nobody has ever made any remarks or anything about it,” she said.

Police in Kona said residents who have signs stolen or vandalized can report it the same way they would report any kind of property case. Officers in the North Kohala District could not be reached at the station.

Biggerstaff said he spoke with police after his signs were stolen. Police didn’t mention they’d received any other cases similar to his.

“The biggest thing I got out of talking to them was that he said, ‘Kohala’s changing,’” Biggerstaff said.

The area has seen a recent growth in population, though Gray said it’s hard to say whether the person stealing their signs is new to the area or has lived there for years.

Gray said the perpetrator, however, is “certainly not any of our neighbors around here.”

After the first theft, Gray said, she spoke with a police officer who suggested the couple set up “No Trespassing” signs on their property.

They did that, but it didn’t make a difference. A sign wasn’t going to deter a sign stealer.

“He took the (Trump) signs even when they were up,” Biggerstaff said.

Worse still, Gray said she felt “really bad” about putting up “No Trespassing” signs in the first place.

“We have never had anybody do anything that was improper or offensive,” she said. “And to tell the people of Kohala that I think they might come on my property and ‘stay off,’ I just didn’t like it.”

Biggerstaff recalled an incident in which a man drove into a fence and within minutes Biggerstaff, along with neighbors and police, were at the scene to help.

“This is how this neighborhood is like,” he said.

“I think a large amount of people here are appreciative of how it is like here,” he said. “I sure have that experience from being here all the years that I have been here.”


This recent experience has shaded that some, though.

“This with the signs being stolen, it’s changed that,” he said. “I have to say it scares me, because that’s what I moved away from.”

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