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Friday, August 11, 2006

Portsmouth Herald Local News: Sign bandit speaks

STRATHAM -- One local man believes he is doing his small part to help clean and beautify the environment, and while what he is doing may technically be construed as theft, John Decker said he will not stop removing signs from public roadways.

The signs advertise things such as hot tub sales or services like removing junk from yards, and Decker said "it's littering and it's illegal."

"I called the Highway Department, and they told me it is illegal, but said that they do not have the money or manpower to remove the signs," he said.

The question is -- which act is more offensive? For Decker, it's the signs. If he doesn't outright take them, he spray-paints the word "scam" on the signs.

"This past weekend, I drove all the way along Route 151, right down to the Amesbury (Mass.) line," he said. "There were about 150 signs."

Now, because of his activity, he said he may be a wanted man.


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"This past weekend, I took the sign on Lafayette Road, at the intersection of Heritage,' he said. "The sign was from Universal Furniture and Spa on Heritage, and the guy called the police."


When a Portsmouth officer contacted Decker on Monday, he said, it was to ask him to return the sign.


"I said no,' because what he is doing is also a violation," said Decker. "They told me I could be charged with petty theft, and I said, Take me in cuffs and do the perp walk.' Everyone hates these signs. Now, my friends take them, too, and bring them to me. The police apparently have to see them do it to take action."


Portsmouth Police Lt. Dante Puopolo said he was not aware of a charge being filed as of Monday afternoon.


"I guess I'd say if a sign is posted illegally, that could be a violation of a city ordinance," said Puopolo. "But, if you're stealing it, that's a Class B misdemeanor, a theft charge."


Decker started his "hobby" about a year ago. He estimates he's dumped about 400 of the signs and said he has no intention of stopping.


"It's like someone taking a crap on your lawn every day," he said. "It's littering and everyone knows it, even the people putting up the signs."


Calls made to phone numbers listed on the signs went directly to voicemail and were not returned by Monday evening.




SOURCE:
Portsmouth Herald Local News: Sign bandit speaks

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