TEWKSBURY — Residents may have noticed that some residential street signs have been replaced recently with two signs instead of one. As part of a cost saving measure, the DPW is installing the new design to save money and reduce theft.
According to Town Engineer Kevin Hardiman, brackets in the old signs are costly to replace when signs are damaged or stolen. The new design, which features two signs and a spacer in the middle, is easier to install, harder to tamper with, and in the end, saves money.
“It is not just the cost of the sign, but the labor involved which is part of equation,” said Hardiman.
Street sign theft is not new, and municipalities across the country have tried all types of strategies to combat the issue. Some towns raise the pole height to 12 feet, others use complicated and expensive brackets, and other use surveillance cameras.
In addition to being a public safety threat and impacting emergency services, stealing street signs costs taxpayers money and takes town staff away from other important projects.
In 2017 alone, data tracked by the Tewksbury DPW reported 111 signs repaired or replaced due to vandalism or cars running them over. There appears to be no rhyme or reason, with some being specific street signs such as Hillman or Dock or Manor Hill, and others which are regulatory or warning signs such as speed limit signs or “do not enter” signs.
In 2018 there were 72 signs repaired or replaced, so the hope is that the trend will continue downward. In addition to street signs, DPW orange detour signs and traffic barrels have also been stolen, again, creating safety issues and costing taxpayers money.
According to Deputy Police Chief John Voto, the severity of the charge for tampering with street signs depends on the situation, but it is considered larceny and, if the sign is expensive, it could be a felony, Voto said.
“If they damage property, they could be charged with malicious destruction,” he added.
As always, Voto encourages residents to contact the police department business line at 978-851-7373 with any suspicious activity or vandalism they become aware of.
“We will take the strongest action up to an arrest,” said Voto.