A recent spate of flag theft has deeply angered Hood River City Police Chief Tony Dirks.
"I'm sure I speak for the vast majority of Hood River citizens when I say that these thefts are particularly disturbing," said Dirks. "I cannot imagine what would possess anyone to commit such a theft, it sickens me."
Sometime during the night of Sept. 18-19, a large flag was cut down from its pole in front of the medical building at the intersection of 12th and May streets. Although its replacement cost is estimated at $488, Dirks believes that particularly flag had a much higher value -- its ability to rally the community.
"Not only was this flag very expensive, I believe its presence has been a source of patriotism and great pride, especially during the last few days," said Dirks. "Let's make this an example of community pride and work together to restore this symbol during this tragic chapter in United States history when healing and standing strong are paramount."
The missing flag had just been featured in the Sept. 15 edition of the Hood River News in tribute to the thousands of people who lost their lives in terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., just four days earlier.
Then, on Monday night, a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag from the Vietnam War and the American flag were cut down from poles in front of the United States Post Office. On the same night, a flag was removed from a business along Cascade Avenue.
Dirks is asking for anyone with information about the thefts to call his office at 386-3942 and promises that all leads will be "vigorously pursued."
"It has been repeated time and time again in recent days that we need to come together as a country and as a people under our great symbol of freedom, the American flag," said Dirks. "We would like to get these cases solved and people don't have to identify themselves when they call."
On a smaller, but no less disturbing scale, two family heirloom flags were stolen Thursday night from planters in front of Studio 10 in the Heights. The two national banners had been placed there by hair stylist Doris Greenough, who usually only brought them out for Fourth of July celebrations with her two grandchildren, ages 3 and 5.
"I can't believe with all the turmoil going on that people are stealing flags," said Greenough. "If they were taken so they could be displayed someplace else then I would not have a problem with that -- I would have a problem if they were taken so people could destroy or toss them."
The Hood River County Sheriffs Department has logged in one additional report of flag theft. Local officials are asking the perpetrators to show their support for the country by ceasing the theft of its emblem, the American flag.