A large American flag that has flown alongside the King Expressway near the Carpenter Dam Road on-ramp since it was first raised in 2015 by Alliance Rubber Co. was stolen either Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
The "massive" 80-by-40-foot flag, which was first flown on Sept. 4, 2015, and could easily be seen from the expressway, was discovered missing early Thursday morning, Misty Smith, creative director for Alliance, told The Sentinel-Record.
The 130-foot pole and the surrounding area were vandalized as well, she said. Alliance notified Hot Springs police and was offering a $1,000 reward for the return of the flag or any information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the offenders who stole it. The reward was later increased to $2,000.
"From what I understand, the perpetrator gained access by crossing the fence that runs alongside the bypass. They shattered the two large halogen lamps that pointed up toward the flag, then busted the electrical box which controls the line to the flag in order to pull it down," Smith said, noting damages are estimated to be around $5,000.
"As of right now, we don't know why and we certainly don't know who would have done this," she said. "However, I know that this flag was loved dearly by this community as a whole and I feel confident that they will go to great lengths to see it returned."
The idea for the flag started with Alliance Rubber Co. President Bonnie Swayze. "We've been kicking it around for the last five years as to how we wanted to do it, what size we wanted, and so forth. A lot of research went into it," Trevor Hamilton, safety training coordinator, told the newspaper on Sept. 9, 2015.
The gold ball at the top of the flagpole was signed by all the company employees working at that time. The pole was erected on land Alliance purchased in June 2015. The all-weather flag, made by a Houston, Texas, company, is illuminated at night by two 1,000-watt spotlights.
"It won't be easy to hide, that's for sure," Smith said, "So, hopefully, everyone in the area will check their security cameras once they hear about it and report anything suspicious they find."
Anyone with information about the theft should contact the Hot Springs Police Department at 501-321-6789 or can report tips anonymously at https://www.cityhs.net/FormCenter/Police-Department-12/Crime-Solvers-Tip-Form-80 and complete the crime tip form using the category "Crime against property."