Pictured in the truck of Robert Dickson, a Costa Mesa planning commissioner, are pieces of recently destroyed campaign signs in support of Measure V and other candidates.

Pictured in the truck of Robert Dickson, a Costa Mesa planning commissioner, are pieces of recently destroyed campaign signs in support of Measure V and other candidates. (Courtesy ROBERT DICKSON / October 22, 2012)

CMPD took the unprecedented step earlier this month of sending officers to investigate reported thefts. In previous years, police would only take reports over the phone or online.

One sign along 19th Street between Santa Ana and Orange avenues was paintballed, torn down and knifed, said Jim Fitzpatrick, CMTA president and a director on the sanitary district's board.

"What I think is different and unique about this stuff is the violence that occurred," he said.

Costa Mesans for Responsible Government (CM4RG) has seen between 200 and 250 of their signs stolen or destroyed, said Mike Harmanos, the organization's ground-campaign coordinator. He estimated the signs' worth at about $500 to $600.

It's all a "distraction from the real issues, and that's not what elections are about," he said.

"Costa Mesans for Responsible Government does not condone, in any way, shape or form, any sort of illegal activity," he added.

His organization has filed police reports for signs stolen from private, noncommercial properties when homeowners were willing to give their name and address for the reports.

Sue Lester, a member of CM4RG and former council candidate, said supporters from the two camps are committing wrongdoings.

"It's gotten beyond ridiculous on both sides," she said, adding that she would equally report illegal behavior on campaign signs that don't necessarily support her candidates and causes.

CM4RG President Robin Leffler said signs in front of her Mesa Verde home have been both torn up and stolen.

There was also an incident where one was thrown in the street; its metal wires were a safety hazard for passing cars, she said.

"Sometimes you see these mangled signs, and you think, 'What violence. Why is somebody doing this?'"

Then there was the recent saga of signs along Mesa Verde Drive that were posted, stolen, then reposted.

"It was like up down, up down, up down, and each time it was a diminishing amount of signs," she said. "We had fewer signs to put out. It was very strange."

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint