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I'm a native English speaker and I've never been able to really parse this one. Is it a command aimed at the police? If so, shouldn't it be "police, take notice"? Is this construction used anywhere except these kind of signs?

Examples from GIS

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First result on google is universalhub.com/glossary/police_take_notice.html, maybe someone will dig out something with better references –  Unreason Jun 21 '11 at 15:10
    
This discussion also addresses it, no source though boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=144878 –  aedia λ Jun 21 '11 at 15:14
    
Seems to be a common sign phrase in Massachusetts: blog.emaki.net/2007/10/… –  aedia λ Jun 21 '11 at 15:20
    
Do -any- street signs use punctuation? (periods, commas, etc) If not, then it's all up to the intention of the sign designers rather than what -should- be there. (Yes, I've always had a hard time myself understanding these kinds of sig: e.g. 'slow children playing' sounds like a cruel comment on the intelligence of local kids.) –  Mitch Jun 21 '11 at 15:28
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@MT_Head, I don't remember that kind of crosswalk sign, but I still see "automatic caution door" signs all over the place. (You know the ones: circular sticker with "automatic" curving along the top, "door" along the bottom, and "caution" straight across the middle.) –  Marthaª Jun 21 '11 at 18:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It's a sign which informs the police that the property in question is privately owned and any person or persons trespassing aren't supposed to be there. The sign also gives the police the freedom to enter the property and remove any such persons if necessary without the direct approval of the owner, as the approval is implied in the sign.

And thus, the sign is there to inform the public that they cannot trespass and that the police take notice over how this sign is respected. The sign is correct and no comma is missing.

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I think you're right, but do you have a citation? –  Robusto Jun 21 '11 at 15:15
    
Unfortunately no, but I'm pretty sure any lawyer could confirm this. –  RiMMER Jun 21 '11 at 15:18
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I think it's arguable whether a comma is missing, but what's not arguable is that signs frequently omit punctuation, just as they typically use all uppercase letters. telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6046862/… –  Ben Hocking Jun 21 '11 at 15:23

I agree this is odd, and bad grammar no matter what it means. My understanding of these signs is that they are required in many places in order for the police to be able to enforce protection of private property without the invitation of the property owner.

Ie, where the local laws are written this way:

Pretend you own a large field, and someone is camping in the back of it.

If you have a sign that says "no trespassing" or "no camping, police take notice", the sign is granting permission for the police to come onto your property and see who is camping back there.

If you do NOT have a sign, then the police would not be allowed to enter your property unless you invited them -- for instance, by calling them and saying "somebody is camping in my field! help!"

I'm pretty sure that's what the signs mean, but you're right about the grammar being incorrect.

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It is effectively saying "The police do/will take notice". It's similar to you saying "Dogs run". It's a statement of fact.

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I have never seen such a sign in the US and it certainly is grammatically incorrect. If it is commanding the police to take notice, then it should have a colon. If it is informing that the police do take notice, then it is missing the article ( the ) and the verb ( do ).

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There's one right down the street in CT outside the Dunkin Donuts. –  smackfu Jun 22 '11 at 14:52

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