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Spate of Graffiti - Vandalism costing state big bucks

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By The Staff

Graffiti vandals and aluminum thieves are hitting signs on state roads, leaving their marks or taking off with the aluminum signs.

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Local state transportation officials are asking area businesses and the public for help to locate the graffiti vandals and thieves.

“It costs taxpayers $250 to $2,500 to replace each sign, based on the size of the sign,” said Kenny Lujan, public information officer with the District 4 office.

Graffiti has plagued the area for several months, forcing the department to replace stacks of tagged signs.

Lujan said that if damage is less than $1,000, the defendant will face a petty misdemeanor charge if caught. The charge is punishable by $500 in fines, up to six months in jail, community service and restitution, according to state statue. Damage of more than $1,000 is a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison, community service and restitution.

Department of Transportation officials said that thieves are also just downright stealing the signs due to the rising cost of aluminum. Lujan said the district sent out letters to area salvage yards advising them of actions they should take if someone brings in stolen state property. He said salvage yards receiving and paying for the aluminum signs will face penalties for receiving stolen property. The value of the stolen property will determine the penalty, which could range from a petty misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.

“There are very steep penalties for those convicted of defacing, stealing or receiving the stolen signs,” Lujan said.

Several signs, including speed limit, deer crossing, Route 66, and elk crossing signs have been stolen within the last few months. Thieves have also taken parts of aluminum guard rails.

Anyone who sees graffiti artists marking or stealing signs is asked to call local law enforcement authorities or Lujan at 505-617-5900.