Carroll County residents, assured they won't be prosecuted for their misdeeds, have begun turning over stolen road signs to state police and highway crews under a one-week amnesty program.

During the amnesty, which began Friday and ends Nov. 2, anyone who has stolen or found a road sign can return it to state police in Westminster or to the county roads department without fear of prosecution, officials said.

Cpl. Lanny Holcombe said Carroll County residents already had brought stop signs, speed-limit signs and road-name signs into the state police barracks.

"They're coming in pretty steady," Holcombe said yesterday. "They're just walking in and handing them over."

State police Cpl. Steven Rutzebeck said stop signs are the "number one" target of sign thieves. He said the practice of taking signs poses a safety problem and can be costly to the county.

The amnesty period, believed to be the first offered in Maryland, was suggested by Trooper William Woods.

The Carroll County Roads Department spent $19,000 to replace missing road signs during the fiscal year that ended in June, officials said.

Rutzebeck said the roads department spent about $3,900 replacing road signs during September.