Tredyffrin Township Police

Theft of ‘BAN the Digital Billboard’ signs from private property throughout Tredyffrin — At Least 60 Signs Stolen

This is the post I didn’t want to write …

I have lived here for many years and I have never seen a community and its residents so united on any single issue as they are in their opposition to the proposed digital billboard in Paoli! The strong anti-digital billboard sentiment was the reason that the social media campaign was mounted – Change.org petition (over 3,300 signatures), dedicated Facebook page and a GoFundMe account to help offset the price of BAN the Digital Billboard print materials and lawn signs. Through generous donations of residents two hundred and fifty signs were ordered and delivered in early November.

Not wanting to risk people accidentally picking up the BAN lawn signs with the political campaign signs post-election, I waited until after November 6 before distributing. After notifying residents that I had the signs, the decision was made to initially only place on private properties. I hand delivered the signs to make certain that they were safely in place. Since Election Day, approximately 100 signs were put on private property throughout Tredyffrin Township – Paoli, Malvern, Devon, Berwyn and some went to Easttown.

A few days after posting BAN lawn signs, I was notified by residents that a few had disappeared. I didn’t think much about it and quickly replaced the signs. However, by the time we got to the second week in November, it was becoming obvious that many signs were gone. The phone calls and emails were picking up from residents upset that their signs were taken – and then two signs were stolen from my own property.

As the numbers in missing BAN signs grew throughout the township, it was clear that this was not a teenage prank but rather trespassing, vandalism and theft of private property. I filed a police report as did at least two others. I did a drive around and put together a list of stolen signs, street by street. (Remember I knew the locations because I had placed the signs myself).

The initial list of stolen BAN signs was forwarded to Tredyffrin Police Chief Beaty on Friday, Nov. 16, about ten days since the first signs went up. The list of stolen BAN signs has continued to grow; to date at least 60 signs stolen (and in less than three weeks!) The value of the stolen signs is over $500.

That’s right – In less than three weeks the BAN the Digital Billboard signs have all but disappeared — trespassing, vandalism and theft of personal property. This is not a joke – 60 signs have been stolen!

Residents who have had their BAN signs stolen are extremely upset. There are very few ways that the public can make their opposition to the proposed digital billboard known – many have called or written supervisors and township officials, signed and shared the Change.org petition and then in the last few weeks put up the lawn signs on their private property to show their opposition

If you look around the township, you will see left over political campaign signs, real estate signs for new developments that are not in the township, signs looking for Kraft bus drivers, firewood and painting advertising signs – you name it – you will see these signs are all over in public areas of the township. Those signs are not placed on private township resident’s property and yet they remain untouched, some standing for months on end.

And here we have at least 60 signs on private property of township tax payers – and they are all stolen.

One resident on Conestoga Road who filed a police report for theft of their Ban the Digital Billboard lawn sign asked me for a replacement sign which I delivered. Fearing the same outcome as the old BAN sign, those homeowners actually went to the hardware store and bought wooden stakes to secure their replacement sign – to see if that would dissuade the trespasser from coming on their property again.

Many of the folks who have had signs stolen are older and some live alone. One resident, who lives alone, said that it scared her that someone had come onto her private property just 10 feet from her front door and stole her two BAN signs.  But again – because this township resident so strongly opposes the proposed digital billboard she too requested (and I delivered) two replacement yard signs.

To be clear, most of these 60 stolen signs were located on private property – removed from the front yards of homes throughout Tredyffrin Township.

My home telephone number is on the BAN the Digital Billboard signs. As  result, I have answered countless phone calls and emails from residents all seeking information and update on this important issue. The public was kept in the dark about the proposed digital billboard for well over a year and now that that the issue has surfaced residents want and expect updates.

Last Monday I went to Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting seeking answers, updates, something, anything! During the citizen comment section, I read a prepared 3 page statement – about the township-wide theft of the BAN signs and asking for an update on the digital billboard.

Residents have no idea where our township supervisors actually stand on the proposed digital billboard with the exception of newly elected supervisor Mark Freed. Mark (who was in the audience) and his opponent Judy DiFilippo answered questions before the election. I posted the answers on Community Matters – and both candidates responded opposing the proposed digital billboard.

At the meeting, the supervisors remained silent with no response to the stolen signs or to my request for an update on the proposed digital billboard. To his credit, supervisor Paul Olson did ask me “who did I think was taking the signs” – I sidestepped the question with a response of “who” had the most to lose from the BAN the Digital Billboard campaign. Several times I commented that the theft of private property is not a joke – one supervisor (who will remain nameless) had a smirk on his face the entire time suggesting that he found the issue amusing.

Sadly, I can report that my statement and questions to the supervisors regarding the proposed digital billboard elicited no response.The township solicitor once again stated that the public would be given advance notice when the digital billboard was back on the agenda.

Let’s not forget that it was the solicitor who announced that there was a draft agreement between the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising regarding the digital billboard. As I stated at the meeting, there are over 100 BAN yard signs remaining in my garage – when I feel that it’s safe they will begin to reappear.

The Tredyffrin Township Police Department is now actively involved in the investigation. If you have had a sign stolen, Police Chief Beaty suggested folks call the police number (610-647-1440) and an officer will respond to take the report.

The BAN the Digital Billboard campaign and the theft of yard signs may seem like a joke to some or at least to one supervisor — but I assure you that the anti-digital billboard sentiment of this community is not going away!  Although frustrated and disappointed, we will continue to fight back!

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For those that are interested, here’s the list by street of signs stolen. Please let me know if you know of others and I will add to the list.

  • Swedesford Road – 4 signs (including 2 on my personal property)
  • Biddle Road – 1 sign
  • Valley Road – 3 signs
  • Valley Road – 2 signs
  • Central Avenue – 8 signs
  • Maple Avenue – 4 signs
  • Russell Road – 4 signs
  • Old Lancaster Ave – 2 signs
  • Glen Ave – 1 sign
  • Old Eagle School Road – 2 signs
  • Conestoga Road – 2 signs
  • Bear Hill Road – 5 signs
  • Lancaster Avenue – 6 signs
  • Valley Forge Road – 1 sign
  • Valley Forge Road – 1 sign
  • Upper Gulph Road – 4 signs
  • 50 BAN Signs stolen in Tredyffrin Township + 10 Signs stolen in Easttown Township
  • TOTAL of 60 BAN Signs Stolen in 3 weeks
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Home Invasion – Robbery – Kidnapping in Berwyn

Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo sent the following press release concerning last night’s home invasion in Berwyn  Please read and if you have any information about the crime, you are asked to contact the police department.  Fortunately, the owners were not hurt but how scary – I cannot imagine!

TREDYFFRIN TWP. POLICE DEPARTMENT

SPECIAL PRESS RELEASE

HOME INVASION ROBBERY/KIDNAPPING

On Thursday, January 31st, 2013 at 8:28 PM., Tredyffrin Twp. Police officers responded to a “911” call on the 200 block of Wooded Way,  in the Berwyn section of Tredyffrin , for a reported home invasion robbery and kidnapping.

Information received by police was that a local resident, who had returned from work at approximately 7 PM, was accosted by three or four black male (masked) subjects armed with handguns who forced themselves into his home. Once inside, the actors bound both victims (husband and wife) and ransacked the home. The actors then took the male victim (in the victim’s white Volkswagen Passatt bearing PA registration plate DJM0696) to the jewelry store (Shuler’s Jewelers) owned by the victims in East Norriton, Montgomery Co. The additional actors were believed to have followed the victim’s vehicle back to the jewelry store.  The suspect vehicle is believed to be a silver or blue sedan – possibly a Chrysler product. No physical injuries were sustained by the two victims. The investigation is continuing with the assistance of the East Norriton Twp. (Montgomery County) Police Department and the Chester County Detectives.

Superintendent of Police Anthony Giaimo commended the quick actions of all responding patrol officers and detectives. Giaimo noted, “We will aggressively pursue this case in conjunction with other partner law enforcement agencies to bring these criminals to justice.”

The public’s assistance is requested in locating the white VW Passatt sedan bearing PA registration DJM0696.  Anyone with information relative to this case is asked to contact the Tredyffrin Twp. Police Department at 610-647-1440.

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Good Guys Can Make Mistakes, Part II

We are now learning more of the details and the timeline surrounding the suspension of Tredyffrin’s police chief Andy Chambers.  According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the township solicitor Vince Donohue explains that there were two reasons for the Board of Supervisor’s disciplinary action and suspension of Chambers.

There were questions and speculation as to when the supervisors learned of the accident involving Chamber’s 16-year-old on November 23.  According to the paper, Board of Supervisors chair Bob Lamina first learned of the incident when he received an anonymous letter on December 4.  However, it was not until the day after, on December 5 that Chambers called Lamina to tell him of the incident. (which by that point, Lamina was already aware).

After conducting an investigation and interviewing 15 people, the supervisors suspended Chambers for 4 days because he (1) allowed his 16-year-old to drive a township police car, which was then involved in an accident and (2) his failure to tell the township supervisors.

As I said yesterday, I really like Andy Chambers and understand that as parents we all make mistakes.  However, I had also assumed that he had owned his mistake immediately and had come forward at the time the incident occurred.  Unfortunately, we now know that he waited 12 days to report the incident (after the anonymous letter detailing the incident was received).  This suggests that if the anonymous letter was not received, the Board of Supervisors may never have known of the incident.

To their credit, the supervisors acted immediately with an investigation that resulted in Chamber’s suspension for 4 days.  In addition to the suspension, Chambers paid for the vehicle towing, damage and mechanic’s time to repair the car, which is now back in service.

In reading the comments on the newspaper sites and on Community Matters, many have focused on the anonymous ‘whistle blower(s)’ who turned in the chief as being the real culprit.  It has been suggested that this incident is not a big deal and offer that some are simply out to get the police chief.

I have to disagree.  As the leader of an organization, he or she has a responsibility to ‘set the bar high’ and to lead by example.  Should not be a case of ‘”Do what I say, not what I do”.  However, we all make mistakes and I have a feeling that Chief Chambers will live with the regrets of this mistake for a long time.

Do I think that he should have told the supervisors back in November when the incident occurred versus waiting until after the Board of Supervisors received the anonymous letter?  Yes, but again hindsight is 20-20.  I wasn’t there when the incident occurred and so have no idea what went into Andy’s decision not to immediately report the incident.  Presumably, he had his reasons . . .

We will hear a statement of explanation at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. I have to believe that Chambers will do his best to repair any damage inside of his department that this incident may have caused and then everyone will try to move forward.

As I said yesterday, I am disappointed in Andy Chamber’s actions but at the same time, I feel sorry for him — we’ve all had those momentary lapses of judgment. This incident just proves that even the good guys can make mistakes.

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