Jail time and fine possible for stealing county street signs
Kurt Engelhardt, LL Editor
Recently a box full of stolen street signs was recovered. The sheriff's office passed the signs back to Hershel Evans, who creates and then installs most of the signs within Livingston County. According to Evans he installs between 25 and 40 signs every month. Unfortunately the recovered signs were so badly damaged that they will be recycled and new signs will have to be made and installed.
Livingston Judge Executive Chris Lasher receives frequent calls about missing signs. “When people steal road signs they fairly costly to replace – between $30 and $40 each to make a new one and put it up. What they don’t realize is that their family member or someone on that road that needs emergency services or an ambulance or a sheriff’s deputy, the missing sign makes it difficult for the first responder to locate a home or business on that road. We have over 400 different roads in Livingston County and if the names are missing at the intersection that can delay the emergency service from finding the location to provide assistance. It may take critical seconds or even minutes away from those responding to arrive to help someone in need when someone decides to steal a road sign. Not only is it costly, but it could be deadly. At times the signs are stolen faster than we can put them up. Because most of them are just bent and removed, even if we recover them like this recent group, we can’t reuse them,” Lasher explained.
County Attorney Billy Riley shared the penalties for stealing a street or road sign in Livingston County. “If the individual is eighteen (18) years of age or older, he/she would likely be prosecuted for Theft by Unlawful Taking. This is a $500 Class A Misdemeanor, which is punishable by confinement in the local jail for up to twelve (12) months, a fine of up to $500, or both confinement and fine. If the value of the stolen item(s) is in excess of $500, the perpetrator could be punished by imprisonment for one to five years,” explained Riley.
If the perpetrator is a juvenile, under eighteen (18), the penalties are different according to Riley. “A minor, if adjudicated delinquent, may be placed on court probation, detained in a juvenile detention facility for up to ninety (90) days (depending on the age of the child,); committed and/or probated to the Department of Juvenile Justice; or placed outside the home or community for an extended period of time.”
Based on the number of road signs found in the single box, the stolen items would be in excess of $500, making the penalty very serious, especially if they take the time to lift finger prints from the recovered signs.
It may seem to be a harmless prank at the moment, but the missing sign could have a serious outcome according to Ledbetter Fire Chief and County Magistrate Terry Stringer. “The street signs within our county are very important to our emergency responders. I know most of this area of the county, so if it was missing, I could still find the location, but that is not true for all of our EMS drivers and others. I don’t think the people that are taking the signs down realize how it can affect others, especially if someone died because the responder couldn’t find the correct street to turn on. I have been on the Fiscal Court for many years and we have had to deal with this again and again. The second issue is having house numbers clearly marked on each home. There is a county ordinance requiring those numbers, but unfortunately many still have not marked their street number on their home or business. Between the missing street signs and houses that are not clearly marked causes problems for any emergency responder,” added Stringer.