HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Political signs are disappearing across Tampa Bay area yards.
Neighbors are warning each other on social media about an apparent uptick in the theft with just two weeks to go to Election Day. They worry a TikTok challenge may be making it worse.
A young girl is caught on surveillance camera stepping out of a white car and picking up a Trump sign. She is seen then running back inside the car and peels out of the Riverside Heights neighborhood.
“I am disappointed," said Carol Brown. "I am totally disappointed that this is taking place in today’s society.”
Brown has since replaced the sign. She tells ABC Action News this never happened to her in 2016.
“Some voices are being stamped out," she said.
Her granddaughter was the one who told her about a viral TikTok challenge encouraging people to steal or deface Trump campaign signs. A quick search on the social media app yields dozens of videos showing mostly teens documenting as they take the signs.
“It’s a social media disgrace actually," said Brown.
Neither Tampa police nor the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has heard about the challenge. But Lake Mary police are warning citizens it could land you in jail.
“You could spend six months in jail,” Zach Hudson, with the Lake Mary Police Department said to our affiliate WFTV. “Just because TikTok is suggesting that you do this, it’s not a good idea. It is a crime to take someone else’s property.”
Oldsmar resident Shirley Crane said she is sick and tired of these yard-sign thieves.
“I had to nail it [sign] to the tree just to keep people from stealing it," she said, as she pointed to her sign, now 15 feet up on her tree. "It’s just not fair, it really isn’t.”
Two weeks ago, Crane says she saw teen girls pluck her Trump sign off her lawn. When she chased after them, she fell, breaking her nose and scraping her knee in the process.
“It’s disappointing. I really — didn’t think that people would go that far," she said.
Her neighbors warned her about the TikTok challenge. She hadn't heard of it and she worries it’s making it all worse.
Joe Biden signs are also going missing.
In Lakeland, homeowners posted signs reading: "You can steal our signs but not our votes. Biden-Harris 2020."
“I would say don’t do it. It’s not worth it. This is America. We’re allowed to be able to say what we want to say," said Crane.
If caught stealing a sign, HCSO says it’s considered petit theft, meaning a violator could face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.