Protecting Against Signage Vandalism

This topic comes up more than most people would expect especially if you are working with a professional sign company. While consulting with clients, amongst the many considerations for signage recommendations, we must consider the potential for vandalism and/or theft. As the recipient of many phone and email inquiries after a sign has been vandalized, we have seen firsthand how creative, diabolical, and relentless vandals and thieves can be when it comes to signage.

What circumstances create a higher percentage of risk or likelihood that vandalism may occur? There are several factors that we consider and ask about while discussing signage needs or a client project. Below, by category, listed are various items that we ask about and note in our observations.

Building or Property Type
Is the building or property used corporately, commercially, institutionally or is it open to the public? Who does the building or property cater to or what kind of people use the location? Is the sign going behind closed doors or in a common area where anyone can access it?

Building or Property Types in the Vicinity
Beyond those who frequent the location regularly, who else will be likely to pass by, through or make use of the location?

Exterior vs. Interior Signage
In combination with many of the other factors what is the intended purpose of the signage?

What is the proximity to a path of travel? Will the sign be installed in a location that is within the reach of human hands? Are there any objects in the vicinity that a potential vandal can stand on or use to gain easy access to the proposed signage location? Does the area have a history or reputation for vandalism and/or theft?

Are there security personnel, patrols or are there cameras monitoring the area or vicinity where the signs are going to be located? Is the area well light during all hours? Are there blind spots or areas of concealment where vandals can easily hide or remain unseen? What other deterrents are in place to minimize vandalism?

Volume of Traffic
Will there be either vehicle and/or foot traffic and during what hours of the day? Is it consistent 24/7 or does it vary with peaks and valleys? Do low traffic periods increase the risk of vandalism?

Sign Copy, Components and General Appearance
Is there anything about the sign that is likely to attract unwanted attention or spark the desire to vandalize or steal all or parts of the sign? Is there anything about the sign that might incentivize theft?  At the conclusion of client consultations under extreme circumstances, we will take the position a sign is not recommended. More likely however we will make recommendations such as:

  • Incorporating elements or features into the signage during the graphic design process to ensure ideal fabrication methods, components and materials are used.
  • An alternative placement and or location which may include an increase in height or distance above grade.
  • Using different materials than originally requested to ensure strength, durability and tamper resistance.
  • Applying special treatments or coatings that are designed to simplify clean up when vandalism occurs.
  • Going beyond typical installation methods or techniques and utilizing a method of attachment or installation that has a reputation for performance in potentially abusive conditions.
  • Making changes to the current environment (moving or removing certain elements) that promote, incentivize, or increase the likelihood of vandalism or adding preventative measures (adding or making adjustments to security).
  • When justified, having an Engineer do calculations to ensure that the signage will hold up to extreme conditions.

It is likely that there is an impact on pricing when taking vandalism and theft into consideration however, it can easily be offset when considering both the cost and inconvenience of having to replace and/or repair damaged or stolen property. In addition, the signage is not likely serving it’s intended purpose while waiting for the work to be done.

Vandalism and theft are not always going to be predictable or preventable. Let’s face it people do some very unexplainable things in the strangest and least likely of places. It is however possible to significantly decrease the risk by thoroughly assessing the situation and following some well thought out recommendations.