Street sign thieves are slow to pick up on rewards offered by town, councilman Average of two signs a month disappearing

September 20, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Street signs marking Paradise Avenue in Mount Airy seem to fly off the posts. "Children at Play" is another favorite of the "collectors," who have been ripping off an average of two street signs a month in town.

The thefts have made Town Councilman Norman C. Hammond so angry that he is offering a $15 reward for returned signs, no questions asked. The Town Council agreed last month to give $100 to anyone who provides the names of sign thieves and locations of stolen signs.

In the year since Hammond began offering the $15 reward, he has paid $15, for one returned parking sign. No one has received a $100 reward.

"It's a serious black eye for our youth, but it's not a serious [financial] problem," Hammond said. "This is $75 a month, and we spend $2 million a year [the town's budget this year is $2.4 million]. It's an irritant. It's more than an irritant because you look and say, 'This shouldn't be happening.' "

Mount Airy has about 2,500 signs on its 20 miles of streets, including street markers and traffic signs. It costs the town an average of $40 per sign and about 15 minutes of staff time to replace a missing sign.

Hammond suspects that the signs end up in teen-agers' bedrooms and college residence halls.

At Western Maryland College, decorating rooms with street and traffic signs isn't widely popular, but some students have them, according to Brandy Mulhern, president of the Student Government Assembly.

"From my high school experience, it happens in high school, too, probably actually more in high school," said Mulhern, who grew up in Frederick County.

Mount Airy's sign theft problem appears to be unique among Carroll's eight incorporated towns.

Manchester doesn't lose street signs, but Mayor Elmer C. Lippy said he can see the rationale behind one popular target: "Children at Play is an appropriate sign in a college dorm room."

Vandals occasionally take street signs from posts in Taneytown, but usually leave the signs nearby, said Charles "Chip" Boyles, city manager. He recalled teen-agers taking street signs in his hometown in South Carolina. Streets named after people, such as "Anna Lane," were highly popular, he said.

Perhaps when towns consider new street names, "They should pick something as unpopular as possible, maybe Aardvark Avenue," Boyles said.

Pub Date: 9/20/96

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