Rash of street sign thefts on Midcoast
SOUTHPORT (WGME) -- It's been a decades-long problem in Maine, with no easy solution. People taking street signs for souvenirs. But over the past few months, an unusually high number of street sign thefts have taken place in the town of Southport on the Midcoast. Ron Farnham, with Southport's public works department., says "Seems like a rash of stealing signs for some reason."
In Southport, at least eight street signs have been stolen in the past several weeks, some more than once. Pointing to a stack of replacement signs, Farnham told us "This one is Christmas Cove road. That's one of the signs there that's been popular." But he says "All these signs have been stolen at one time or another."
Local store owner Oliver Cusano has a theory. He says "My first thought would be kids, right? But missing so many times, I don't get it." The town has no explanation for all the recent thefts. Ron Farnham and Dennis Andrews are the ones who replace the stolen signs. Andrews says "Like on Joppa road, we lost the sign post, the stop sign, and the street sign."
We went with them as they put up this new stop sign and street sign. A street sign costs the town and local taxpayers $30 to replace. Farnham says "All of this is costing us money. The town pays for each sign." Homeowner Tim Poosikian says "Oh, I think it's sad that someone feels they have to take public property like that, especially at the cost of the taxpayers. So it's too bad."
But that's not the biggest concern. Farnham says "There's a lot of these roads, even the private roads, where an ambulance in bad weather going down through in the dark can't find the roads because the sign is missing." It is not unusual for street signs to be stolen. It happens all the time here in Maine. The problem is, there's not much towns can do about it.
There are some small measures they can take. For instance, the Dogfish Head sign in Southport has been stolen so many times, crews actually replaced it with this wooden one, hoping to discourage someone from stealing it again. Oliver Cusano says "Dogfish Head beer is very famous now. So I think that's the number one (street sign) that is probably being taken."
There are also ways to better secure the street signs onto the poles. But even that doesn't stop someone from breaking a sign off and taking it, if they really want it. Shaking his head, Dennis Andrews tells us "I don't know. I don't know what you do really. There are different ways you could anchor them. But if they're gonna get it, they're gonna get it. That's all there is to it."
And with few police officers, the town must rely on parents and neighbors to keep an eye out. By the way, in nearby Boothbay Harbor, street sign thefts led that town to buy its own street sign making machine, to keep costs down.