More than two dozen lawn signs used to promote safe driving in one Lexington neighborhood were meticulously defaced with a message that neighbors say spews hate.
The signs reading “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here” were part of a grassroots initiative spearheaded by Melinda Wester of the Southern Heights neighborhood in June.
Over the weekend, those signs disappeared, only to reappear Monday with “Drive Like Your GAY” seemingly stenciled on them in spray paint.
Wester, who has lived in the community for 5 1/2 years, bought 25 signs from the Connecticut-based company Drivelikeyourkidslivehere.com to hand out to 24 neighbors. Their concern stemmed from a drastic increase in traffic this year from the newly expanded Baptist Health Lexington and the death of two pets hit by cars this summer. The neighborhood is south of the University of Kentucky Arboretum and Baptist Health Lexington, off Nicholasville Road.
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Residents of the nearby Glendover neighborhoods also bought their own signs in solidarity.
“We live here; we have families, we have pets,” Wester said. “People have small children; I think the signs are a good reminder.”
As the summer weeks came and went, so did the Southern Heights signs, at the hands of unknown thieves.
Frustrated, neighbor Susan Tegtmeier bought a second batch of 25 signs in August, with “Property of SHN” marked on them to discourage theft and possible resale.
It was some of the second batch of signs that disappeared Sunday and reappeared early on the lawns in the Southern Heights neighborhood with the crude message.
Residents were appalled, including Cristen Pascucci, who had hoped that the original signs would keep the neighborhood safe for children, including her 4-year-old son Henry.
“It’s gross; it really bothers me,” Pascucci said. “I’m glad it didn’t happen in front of my house. It’s really bothersome that we would have in this nice community what looks like a hate crime. … It’s just scary.”
Lexington police were called to take a report of criminal mischief; the officer also said more patrols would happen in the area, Wester said.
News of the defacement reached Councilwoman Susan Lamb, who said she hopes the culprits are found.
“Neighborhoods across the district, and city, are dealing with speeding and potential dangerous driving,” Lamb said via email. “These signs were purchased by residents in the neighborhood in an effort to deter this from happening on their local streets. It really takes some audacity to go to the trouble and disrespect personal property like this, and I certainly hope they think twice before doing it again.”
Wester sent images of the defaced signs to Drivelikeyourkidslivehere.com, which mailed her 25 free new ones, company co-founder Petulia Pugliares said via email.
“The feeling of defeat was not an option. These folks are simply trying to make a difference regarding traffic calming in their community. Replacing vandalized signs was the least we could do,” Pugliares said. “Our goal is the prevention of serious injuries and deaths involving automobile accidents, especially with children/pedestrians.”
Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso