RIDGEWOOD - A seemingly innocent prank is costing one town a lot of money.

News 12 New Jersey first reported last summer that street signs have been disappearing from Ridgewood.  Town officials say the problem has gotten worse over the year.

“Our budget is probably $15,000 a year. Unfortunately we’re spending all of our money on thefts,” says Jim O’Connell, of the Traffic and Signal Division. “The $15,000 doesn’t include man-hours, the wasted time our guys are out there when they could be doing other things.”

Leaders in the town are worried. It may seem like a harmless prank, but missing street signs can increase response times for emergency crews and when stop or yield signs are stolen, make traffic dangerous.

Officials say if there is an accident at an intersection with a missing sign, the person who stole it can be held liable for damage and injuries.

To combat the thefts, some of the signs are now wired to the poles. Security cameras have also been installed around town to deter thieves.