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No Trespassing!

Landowners who don’t want people traipsing around their property should have No Trespassing signs and fences clearly marking the boundaries. However, that doesn’t always work.

Bob King is an agriculture specialist at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York. When you find unwanted visitors on your property, he says it’s important to be congenial. Perhaps they didn’t know they were on your land or didn’t see the No Trespassing signs. 

Be pleasant, visit with them, and make them aware they are trespassing. In most states, if you ask people to leave your property, they are required by law to leave.

You might encounter someone who is intentionally up to no good. Don’t engage with a person carrying a weapon or who physically looks intimidating. 

King recommends that you gather all the information you can about the trespasser and report it to law enforcement.

“If you’re interacting with people who aren’t wanted on the property, try to make mental notes of identifying features of the individuals doing the trespass,” says King. “Make note of how the people accessed the property. Make sure you take notice as to the make and model of any vehicle and the license plate number.”

Also, note what they appear to be doing. Were they mushroom hunting, fishing, looking at your equipment, or casing the place? Law enforcement needs all the physical evidence and documentation you can give in order to follow up. 

King says don’t expect law enforcement to go onto your property to find the trespasser.

“What they may do is take notes of the location and the access, and then issue a card on that vehicle that says, ‘Call me regarding an incident involving trespass.’ Oftentimes, that’s sufficient to keep people from coming back on your property again,” says King.

put up the signs

Most local law enforcement agencies require the posting of a No Trespassing sign before any enforcement action is taken.

King says it’s important to be sure where your property begins and ends before you hang the first sign. 

“What we’re seeing at times is when people, as well intended as they may be, post signs to keep out trespassers, when they’re actually posting signs on somebody else’s property,” says King. “So it’s important that you understand your boundary lines. When you’re posting signs, make sure those notices are conspicuous and that you’re following the laws within your state.”

Hang signs on a fencepost, a standing post, or a nonmarketable tree. Don’t fasten them supertight against a tree. Instead, make sure there’s a little bit of space so as the tree grows and expands, it won’t pop off the sign. King recommends using nails or screws made of aluminum, which is a healthier material for the tree.

After your signs are hung, don’t forget about them.

“It’s advisable to periodically check signs within the year they go up to make sure none of them is torn down or damaged, that it’s still legible, and that the name and address of the owner or the point of contact is visible so all can see,” says King.

All signs posted on private land have to be a sufficient size so they’re easily seen. Check with your state’s regulations for those size requirements. 

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