Someone is pinching the town’s street signs, and in the process sowing potential confusion for emergency responders and costing the municipality money.
Thieves have taken 18 signs over the past eight weeks, with the last incident reported 15 days ago. They have targeted just town-owned street signs, regardless of the street name, ignoring other signs. In one case, they took the pole along with the sign. The signs measure 6 inches by 2 feet.
Town officials are baffled.
“We have no idea why they are doing it,” said Supervisor Richard Argotsinger.
“They are our normal signs, Gray Road, Griffis Road, all regular road signs,” he said.
Town officials said they have not heard of thieves targeting signs in other Fulton County municipalities. “I have never seen anything like this,” said Highway Superintendent Melvin Dopp.
Dopp called the thefts a danger to public safety. “This is getting bad and quite dangerous for the public,” he said. “When EMS is called out, when a trooper is called out or when the sheriff is called out to a road, they could drive by it. It could affect response time.”
At first, officials thought thieves might be stealing the aluminum signs and selling them for the scrap metal. But a check of the local scrap yard found nothing.
Then they focused on high school students, but have yet to turn up any leads. “Usually the kids talk too much and someone knows about it. We are not discounting it 100 percent, but we are feeling it isn’t kids,” Argotsinger said.
The town will replace the missing signs, which have to be special-ordered. Replacement signs cost about $50 to $60 each, plus labor, bringing the total cost to about $100 per sign, Argotsinger said. He said the town has budgeted $2,000 for signs, but that amount covers all signs in the town, including stop signs, which haven’t been touched.
“We are talking about $2,000 in signs and that is a cost to taxpayers,” he said. “We don’t have that kind of money for signs.”
The problem has gotten so bad, town officials are asking for the public to help identify the thieves. Police are already involved, they said.
“We have been bringing a lot of attention to it, to get the public aware of what is happening. They need to stop endangering people’s lives,” Dopp said.