They’re not taking their horses to the Old Town Road — they’re taking the sign itself.
Wellesley officials are pleading with people to stop stealing the sign for Old Town Road, a small street in a residential area of Wellesley, after the hit Lil Nas X song has taken over radio stations this summer.
Six “Old Town Rd.” signs in total — there’s one at each end of the street — have been stolen in the past four months, according to Stephanie Hawkinson, communications and project manager for the town of Wellesley. (The trend was first uncovered by local news site The Swellesley Report.)
Not only have the signs been stolen — the metal posts they were affixed to have been taken each time as well, Hawkinson said.
“It’s mounted on the post, so if someone wanted to steal just a sign, they would have to take a hacksaw and saw it off at the top of the post,” she said. “But since it’s about 12 feet tall, it would require a ladder. So they actually saw at the base and then take the whole thing.
“It’s a difficult job to steal both,” she added. “It requires ingenuity and a truck.”
The town’s Department of Public Works has replaced the signs at each end of the street the last few times they have been stolen — but the new ones would last less than a week before they were gone again, Hawkinson said.
And it’s racking up quite a bill for the town. Each sign costs between $250 and $280 to replace, not including the labor of DPW employees to reinstall them, Hawkinson said.
Filching a street signs is also illegal: the charge is misdemeanor larceny, which would most likely result in a citation or a fine, Hawkinson said, citing Wellesley police.
“We understand it’s a funny prank, but it’s also expensive for the town to replace the sign,” she said. “Also, for first responders who rely on GPS, if they’re not familiar with area, it could delay an emergency response.”
The problem has become so prevalent, in fact, that the town has decided to wait to replace the latest round of hijacked signs.
“At this point, no sign is there,” Hawkinson said. “We’re holding out hope that the song will become less popular, and the sign will stick around a little longer.”
Hawkinson said town officials know and like the song, but she wishes that people could enjoy the tune without committing a civil offense.
“It definitely coincides with the release of ‘Old Town Road’ and the popularity of the song,” she said. “We all have kids and recognize it’s most likely a prank. But it’s town property, and we don’t want to encourage that.”
The song itself has, indeed, exploded in popularity this summer. The first hit single from country rapper Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” has been No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart since April 13, and the official music video has more than 257 million views on YouTube. (An audio video on YouTube has even more views — nearly 353 million.)
Wellesley is no stranger to stolen road signs. Hawkinson said popular ones include “Colgate Road” and “Harvard Street” — likely swiped by those who attend the colleges — as well as run-of-the-mill stop, do not enter, one way, and speed hump signs.
She also points out the town orders their signs from Atlantic Broom Services, noting that “if an individual really wants to have their own Old Town Road sign, it can be ordered directly from that company… leaving the town signs alone.”