Kids Corner


The Case of The Missing Street Signs




Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

The street-sign for 'Punjab Avenue', a street in California's Fresno County, has become such a favourite with thieves that officials have now mooted the idea of planting hidden tracking devices inside it.

Fresno County, which is home to the first Sikh immigrants to America in the late 19th century, has a 40,000-strong Sikh community today.

Punjab Avenue is the one of three streets at a housing project developed by local Sikh cardiologist Harcharan Singh Chann in the late 1980s.

All is well in the rich neighbourhood with its posh, two-acre lots complete with circle driveways, manicured lawns and grand entrances except one thing - someone keeps stealing the street signs that read "Punjab Avenue".

No one knows why and no one has been caught, according to the local Fresno Bee newspaper.

Fed up with thieves when county officials called a meeting to consider the idea of changing the street name from 'Punjab Avenue' to Sierra Hills Avenue, it raised a storm in the local Sikh community, with a Punjabi radio station leading the protest, according to the newspaper.

E-mails bombarded county authorities. 'I request that you all keep in mind the feelings and sentiments of thousands of Sikh-Americans residing in Fresno County,' read one. 'This is flat-out discrimination,' read another.

So when many Sikhs-Americans at the Dec 14 meeting opposed name changing and found some support among neighbours who called the proposal 'distasteful ... racist, and insulting', county authorities backed down.

As an alternative, the authorities proposed to do a better job of securing the signs. 'Weld them, put the poles in heavy cement - do whatever it takes,' ordered county supervisor Judy Case.

County workers followed the orders. But smart vandals simply sawed off part of the pole and vanished with the street sign, according to the paper.

Helpless county authorities have now decided to explore the possibility of installing a remote tracking device on the sign and asked their officials to find out whether they could hide a 'satellite emitter' in the sign to catch thieves.

But senior engineer Robin Quinn has some issues: How do you power the tracking device? How do you make sure thieves don't find it and pull it off?

So as an alternative, Quinn also is considering the possibility of installing a device that would spray dye when the sign is removed - similar to what banks use to tag stolen money.

But what if the spray system malfunctioned?

Indeed, the 'Punjab Avenue' signs have become a big headache for county authorities.

Sixty-year-old Harcharan Singh, who no longer owns any property on the street he named in the 1980s, says he will sue county authorities if they change the name.


December 29, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Gurtej Singh (Wellington, New Zealand), January 03, 2011, 4:20 AM.

I was surprised to read this story. Here in Wellington, there is a suburb named Khandallah that has street names from all over South Asia. And this is the second most expensive area of Wellington after Oriental Parade. Please search 'Khandallah Wellington New Zealand' on Google maps and then zoom in to read the street names. In addition to other names, you'll also find 'Punjab Street'. That's why they say "Wellington is world's 'coolest little capital."

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