Commissioner seeks to stop thievesPublished 10:36pm Monday, March 17, 2014
Commissioner Ray Goodson might have been disappointed, but he was not surprised when he returned to Baker Road and found that a stop sign was missing.
“They tear that sign down once a week,” he said. “It may be funny to them, but it’s a safety hazard.”
The stop sign is supposed to sit at the bottom of a hill on Baker Road, a warning to drivers of the County Road 3319, a busy county road adjacent to the dirt road.
“Coming out of that hill at night, somebody will end up in the middle of oncoming traffic and then it’s basically over,” Goodson said.
It’s happened before.
John Bergschneider, assistant county engineer, recalled a case where a stolen stop sign caused a fatal wreck.
“A couple years ago, three kids stole a stop sign on a Florida street that caused a death. And the kids were found guilty of murder,” he said.
The signs cost $223 to replace, not counting labor. Anyone caught stealing one would face a theft of property charge. Bergschneider and Goodson have both said they would prosecute.
Sheriff Russell Thomas was not aware that stolen signs were an issue for the county.
“We haven’t had any reported,” he said. “They need to place a phone call and make us aware. They’re not reporting it to us.”
Two to three signs are stolen per week. All types of signs are susceptible, but the stop signs are the most popular and most important. Bergschneider said the roads department wastes no time replacing them.
Street names are also popular. Goodson said he worries over those thefts because they are so important for emergency responders. A missing sign could add minutes to someone’s rescue and be the difference between life and death.
“They don’t realize how important these signs are,” Goodson said.
In addition to the thefts, Bergschneider said signs are often knocked over, damaging the sign and its post.
Replacing the CR 3319 sign with a stoplight is not a viable option.
“They are frightfully expensive, not only installation but the power bill every month,” Bergschneider said. “And it still doesn’t keep them from shooting them.”
Commissioners have discussed measures of curbing the thefts, including offering a reward. No official action has been taken.