Yard signs that welcome refugees are a common sight in communities like Wheaton, where many immigrants who escape violence or war-torn countries now call home. But many residents who support their new neighbors are concerned that a rash of thefts is targeting their message of peace.
“It floors me that people would be threatened by a sign that’s welcoming everybody,” Liz Karnik said.
According to residents in Wheaton and nearby Glen Ellyn, a growing number of signs that support refugees are being stolen from front lawns in their neighborhoods.
The signs may include messages such as “Love Everyone Always” and “Hate Has No Home Here.”
Robyn Kimmel of Wheaton said she woke up Wednesday to find someone had stolen one of her “We Are Not Afraid” signs for the seventh time.
“It’s frustrating, but on the other hand people are coming together in our neighborhood and saying this has got to stop,” Kimmel said.
The issue is becoming a big talker on a popular social media site, where one resident has posted a security video appearing to show a sign theft in progress.
Lisa Diomede of Glen Ellyn said there are 11 signs on her street that now have been taken twice.
“I replenished and distributed both times,” Diomede said. “The last batch had been taken within the last couple of nights.”
World Relief, the charity which accepts donations for the signs, said the messages are displayed by people who want to share with their neighbors how they feel and to counter a narrative of fear and divisiveness.
“These isolated actions are disappointing, and don’t reflect the attitude of many in our community,” said World Relief DuPage/Aurora executive director Susan Sperry.
Kate Sisk is a Wheaton resident who ordered 250 signs earlier this year.
“If refugees are seeing signs and then all of a sudden those signs are gone, what message are we sending to those refugees?” Sisk said.
However, some residents have said that every time a sign is stolen and replaced it benefits the very people the thieves seem to fear.
“We just make more donations to World Relief,” Kimmel said.
Sperry said for those who had a “We Are Not Afraid” sign stolen, World Relief would be happy to replace it at its office in Wheaton or Aurora.
Published at 5:29 PM CDT on Aug 23, 2017 | Updated at 9:52 PM CDT on Aug 23, 2017