How can Washington Metro keep kids from stealing signs?

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This topic contains 25 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  Sterling Whitehead 7 years ago.

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  • #130705

    Deena Larsen
    Participant

    The Washington metro is a byzantine place, with elevators in out of the way corners. Tourists in wheelchairs can be lost for hours. But Washington metro is trying to help–with new signs. However, the signs disappear. They spent $200,000 on signs that lasted an entire week–and some people pulled them out of the concrete to take them home. They even steal the Out of Order signs–which are vital to konw about.

    What is the answer? How can we create signs for the disabled and maintain them?

  • #130755

    Sterling Whitehead
    Participant

    Put new phrases on the signs that will make people less likely to want to steal them. “Out of Order” is a culturally engrained; a simpler, less desirable phrase might produce better results.

    Remember, consider the motivation of people stealing these signs. Stealing signs is an act of rebellion and fun for many thieves; “Out of Order” signs will go above their toilets or on doors.

    You might ask how I know this…well, I didn’t grow up in DC, but let’s just say I did more than my fair share of rebellious acts.

  • #130753

    I don’t know if this is possible, but how about trying to attach them in a weird way?

    These are very cool door hinges – and they had a tendency to get yanked. They are now attached using a special screw-driver that’s hard to come by. Not sure if that would work for the Metro though.

  • #130751

    Denise Petet
    Participant

    It wouldn’t help with the people tearing it out of the concrete, but if they’re unbolting them, aren’t there locking nuts they could use? Or perhaps, once the nut is tightened over the bolt, the head of the bolt is mangled some way, making it impossible to take the nuts off.

    Yes, it wil make it harder for crews to maintain them, but might slow down some thieves.

    And then, on a sign that they know is always stolen, a little sting. Catch and arrest even just one thief. and then publicly name and shame and fine them heavily. On the heels of that, offer a reward for those willing to turn in their fellow thieves.

  • #130749

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Maybe a small language somewhere that’s like “If you see this sign in a place where it’s not supposed to be, call and report it at 202 XXX XXXX and we’ll give you a $500 reward”

  • #130747

    Sterling Whitehead
    Participant

    I love these solutions, especially @Denise’s name and shame approach. Nothing straightens people up like having their reputation tarnished. If you grew up in a small town or went to a small school, you understand this power very well.

  • #130745

    This is pretty cool…but cost seems like it would be prohibitive. Great example!

  • #130743

    Might be hard with minors…but interesting idea.

  • #130741

    John Nelson
    Participant

    Start putting up signs with the special dye packs (that they use in bank robberies) embedded behind them. Just randomly place them. As soon as one of the “kids” tries to take one… Poof!!!! The threat of being teased because you are now Barney Purple will be enough of a deterring factor. Especially if the other kids post it on YouTube and it goes viral. Oh, and have the rule that no purple people (especially Barney when he sings that irritating song) are allowed on Metro property.

    Beyond that, how do you stop “kids’ from being “kids”?

  • #130739

    Alicia Mazzara
    Participant

    Maybe hanging signs high enough that they are out of reach and cannot easily be taken down? I think the bigger problem is rowdy behavior on the Metro, which has occasionally turned dangerous. Metro might be better served by investing that $200,000 in more police officers.

  • #130737

    Jeff Ribeira
    Member

    Is this not what we have station managers for? If you see a kid/group of kids trying to carry a road sign through the turnstyles, you stop them! I suppose that only applies to signage within the metro system itself though. Out in the parking lots is a whole other story. I like the idea of some type of unique bolts, and then maybe even some kind of hacksaw-resistant pole. That could be a tough sell though since it would probably raise costs significantly.

    I think Sterling has a good point in that many traditional signs have become so iconic that many think of them as awesome, free home/garage/”man cave” decor. I also think that for whatever reason stealing road signs just doesn’t compute as actual stealing. So maybe the issue is more psychological/sociological?

  • #130735

    Jeff Ribeira
    Member

    When I first read the word “sting” I thought of putting an actual electric current in the sign itself, not setting the perps up to be caught…perhaps not a bad idea though. A light current, not harmful if you brush up against it, but painful if you were to try to grab it with your bare hands or use a metal tool on it. Lots of warning labels to go with it, of course.

  • #130733

    Stephen Peteritas
    Participant

    Maybe I’m simplistic but I’m assuming these signs are large… wouldn’t making metro employees that work the exit entrance stations pay more attention be the most cost effective solution.

    On the other end of the spectrum you could go expensive and do the whole art gallery thing with alarms for touching.

  • #130731

    Stephanie Slade
    Participant

    This is a great idea except that it could lead to even more people stealing signs in order to call them in and get the reward. Haha.

  • #130729

    Sharon Henry
    Participant

    This might be too obvious, but why not embed the signs into a wall? You didn’t say how many signs disappeared, but $200,000 lost in one week? Why not hire the kids and have them wear the metro signs, sort of your Metro concierges. Solve two problems. Signs don’t disappear, and create a few jobs.

  • #130727

    Carol Davison
    Participant

    I like equipping the signs to eject paint when exposed to light. The moment you get off the metro you turn purple.

    Could metro perhaps paint signs on the floor and make arrows too? With all of those wooden structures built around elevator outages people cut corners and walk into those wanting to go down the escaltor.

  • #130725

    Denise Petet
    Participant

    How about implanting some of the more stolen signs with RF tags. Like those little things in your DVDs that make the alarm at the exit go off at teh front door of the store. Anyone passes through a door with them sets off an alarm and, hopefully, the staff responds.

    Those tags have to be cheap or else they wouldn’t be in so many products, the readers might not be, however losing 200K worth of signs might make the money worth it.

    I think paying attention might also be a good idea. Heck, for the money they’re losing, hire some undercover personnel to hang out in the stations and keep an eye on things. Sign theivery might not be all they catch.

  • #130723

    Carol Davison
    Participant

    Sharon, I love, love, love the signs embeded into the walls. That is what they do in France and they are a part of the art of the metro. Maybe artists would even do it for the honor of it?

  • #130721

    Eric R. Payne
    Participant

    Make them less scarce. Supply some of the street vendors with replicas to sell cheap. It will become uncool to snag ‘tourist’ trinkets.

  • #130719

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    I like that idea. It’s like with MP3s – made an easy way to actually purhcase it and make it common

  • #130717

    Denise Petet
    Participant

    along that vein, instead of hanging expensive printed signs, make cheap ones…laminated paper and make sure each station boss has dozens of them

    maybe once the ‘forbidden fruit’ isn’t forbidden anymore, it’ll lose its appeal

  • #130715

    Ed Albetski
    Participant

    This reminds me of NASA’s effort for someone to invent a pen that worked in zero gravity. Remember ads for the expensive Space Pen? The Russians never bothered; they used pencils.

    I agree with with simply making the signs integral to the wall. Paint them on. If graffiti artists can do it, so can we.

  • #130713

    Stephanie Slade
    Participant

    Those are both really good ideas. I’m so impressed by what people here are coming up with!

  • #130711

    Denise Petet
    Participant

    work with an art school in the area. Have someone sketch out the outline and people paint it, yeah, for the honor of doing it.

    We have a mural wall here that gets a panel done every summer. the head artist sketches it out and then will have people volunteer to paint. I do know that she sometimes has to go behind them and ‘fix’ things, however that’s a mural of scenery and people, these signs are likely more simple.

    If people are providing the talent, then they will ‘own’ the art/signs, and it’s less ‘kids pranking ‘the man’ by stealing them’ and more ‘thugs abusing the hard work of talented artists’

    There’s no rule saying that signs can’t be artistic and creative…they just have to be readable and understandable.

  • #130709

    Alicia Mazzara
    Participant

    I like this idea. Metro has put some murals in stations, so it seems like this might be a natural next step. Plus, it is so gray and drab inside the stations, some color would be nice.

  • #130707

    Tricia
    Participant

    Selling the replicas yourself, and making them available to retailers – great way to generate some revenue!

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