Street signs hot property in Whitefield

May 06, 2009
WHITEFIELD — Most of us take the green signs that mark the streets around town for granted. But Whitefield residents are finding fewer of them around town this spring after a marked increase in thefts of the municipal property over the winter.

Shawn White, Public Works Director, said the town's highway department has typically inventoried the street signs twice a year and budgets $500 annually to cover any losses. This spring, however, the inventory turned up 32 missing or damaged signs all over town. Whitefield has 118 town, private and state owned roads. The 32-sign count included labels on town roads and municipal parking lots.

At a cost of $21 to $77 per sign depending on the length of the street name, the replacement cost is estimated at more than $1,200. That figure includes replacement costs for sign posts in some cases where both the sign and the post are missing. The posts run $220 each. "With a sign budget of $500, it kind of hurts," Mr. White said.

The sign on Evergreen Drive, which is off Parker Road, is still intact, but bent in a manner that suggests whoever is stealing the signs is pulling on them from the top and snapping the signs off their mount. Mr. White said that no area of town has been immune, but the less traveled roads have been harder hit. "Most of them were out of town roads," he said of the targeted signs. He also noted that, historically, Prospect Street is a hot target and this time was no different. "As soon as I get a sign up (there) it's gone," Mr. White said.

Especially frustrating is that because the signs are inventoried and replacements ordered in the fall, the town is certain all 32 of these signs was in its place before the winter. The thefts are costing the town money it really doesn't have in tight times, Mr. White explained, and added that he hopes that someone with knowledge of the crimes might come forward.

"It's a big deal," he said, calling the missing signs an on-going problem that has gotten worse. The additional money for the signs has to come from elsewhere in the highway department budget and will likely come from the road maintenance, leaving less money for that operation. This is not the first time that the sign thefts have outpaced the budget to replace them. Mr. White said that last year's thefts cost the town $700 rather than the budgeted $500. This year's increase is substantially more with just the first inventory complete.

Mr. White says so far the town has no leads on whether one person or multiple people are stealing the road signs. One sign, complete with attached post, missing from the municipal parking lot behind Laconia Savings Bank, was recovered abandoned in Franconia recently. That sign is valued at $150.

Mr. White asks that anyone with information on the theft of any of the missing street signs call him at 837-2202 or Whitefield Police at 837-9086.

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