Right after the 2012 Super Bowl, someone stole a community sign in West Towson.
Three years later, the sign has turned up —in a trash receptacle in an apartment complex where many of the renters are Towson University students.
"We're very excited to have it back and amazed that it's in such good condition," said Carrie Cronin, president of the West Towson Neighborhood Association. She said the large sign used to stand at the intersection of Allegheny and Central avenues.
"It was basically a gateway sign" into the neighborhood, she said.
The sign was one of two stolen around that time, said Joshua Glikin, a past president of the association. One was later found in a patch of woods off Joppa Road, near the Colony Apartments and Kenilworth Mall, Glikin said.
But the other stayed missing until May, when Steve Budosh, of West Towson, found out about it through his son, Nicolas, and Nicolas' girlfriend, Amber Hepler.
According to Budosh, Hepler, who was due to graduate in June, saw it sticking out of the trash receptacle at the Fairways at Towson apartment complex, where she lives. She texted a photo of the sign to Budosh and said, "This looks like something for your neighborhood."
Budosh said he felt duty-bound to alert the neighborhood association about the sign, "because those things aren't cheap."
It cost the West Towson Neighborhood Association more than $1,200 to replace the one that went missing, Cronin said.
Cronin said the old sign is now safe and sound, "at an undisclosed location."
Glikin is surprised the sign found its way back to the community.
"We always wondered if someone, perhaps a TU student, took the sign as a room decoration," Glikin said.
Assuming it was indeed a student, Glikin questions the decision to dump the sign.
"It's one thing to steal," he said. "It certainly would have been nice if they had thought to return it, not just throw it away."
The Towson area has had problems before with signs being stolen or defaced. A community sign at the corner of Chesapeake Avenue and Charles Street Avenue is still stained from being egged some years back, probably on a Mischief Night, Glikin said.
"We had to buy reinforced signs because the originals were easily stolen if the posts holding them were kicked hard enough," said Mike Ertel, a West Towson resident and president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations. "I think the West Towson signs were an attractive target merely because they had 'Towson' in their name."
Now, with the posts redesigned and reinforced, the signs are safer.
"They're not as easy to walk off with," Cronin said.
"We've cut down on problems," said Glikin.
Past GTCCA president Paul Hartman said an East Towson sign at Towsontown Boulevard and Virginia Avenue was broken a few years ago. Hartman also said his community, Aigburth Manor, doesn't have any signs bearing the neighborhood's name, "but we have had continual problems with street signs either disappearing or ending up way down the block, pole and everything. Stop, One Way and street name signs are popular. Also Residential Parking Permit signs."
"In past years we had to call Baltimore County Public Works repeatedly," Hartman said. "They got tired of hearing from us."
Towson police see cases of stolen signs "every once in a while," said Lt. Randy Guraleczka, assistant precinct commander. He said he can't recall any arrests, although signs occasionally are found in dormitory rooms of Towson University students or discarded on the streets — often tied to the bar scene, when students walk through neighborhoods near campus.
"Every year when you get a fresh batch of freshmen, they go out and test the waters" of what they can get away with, Guraleczka said.
"We have had community signs stolen. We have had stop signs stolen. We have had No Parking signs stolen," he said.
Cronin said the community is delighted to have the lost sign back and that it appears it was kept indoors.
"The sign is in excellent condition," she said. "There was no weathering on the sign."
She is also "really proud" that the people who found the sign took enough of an interest to get in touch with community leaders.
Now, the only question for the association board is what to do with the sign, because there's a new sign in the old sign's spot.
"We're unsure as a board as to how we're going to use the sign," Cronin said. "We might put it on another street or in West Towson Park."