Traffic signs go missing

Published 10:22 pm Friday, April 2, 2010

Several city road signs were recently stolen from different streets in Clanton, said street and sanitation superintendent Dale Collins.

He suspects bored teenagers with nothing better to do as the culprits, though he wouldn’t be surprised if those desperate for metal parts stole them.

Collins said roughly nine signs were stolen from Hinkle Road, Samaria Road and Martha Street.

If a minor steals traffic signs, their parents are responsible and will suffer the consequences. Collins said if the culprit turns the property back in to the street and sanitation department, he or she will not face any charges.

State law indicates a person who voluntarily notifies law enforcement officials of the presence of traffic signs on their property will not be guilty of violating the law.

If a person intentionally destroys, knocks down, removes or defaces a sign on a public road, he or she will be charged. The fine for that crime is $2,500 or more if the damage inflicted costs more than $500 to repair. If less than $500 to repair, the fine is less than $500.

Those in possession of a traffic sign will be fined $50.

Parents of minors under 18-years-old are liable for damages and court costs.

Minors convicted of damaging traffic signs will receive a court order to clean up the destruction or defacement.

Collins said his intention is to inform the public on the safety implications stealing traffic signs could have.

He’s familiar with previous cases of stolen stop signs that have led to deaths as a result of car accidents.

“People don’t understand the consequences of stealing stop signs,” he said. “We’ve tried everything in the book to bolt the signs down and keep them on the roads, but they still get them.”

Due to an increase in metal prices, Collins said those who work with it might result to desperate measures to get their hands on some.

He has contacted nearby recycling locations to be on the lookout for anyone turning in traffic signs.

Stop signs cost $30-35 apiece, Collins said.

“Stealing those signs could get somebody killed,” he said. “If anyone sees someone who isn’t a city employee handling these signs, they need to let the police or a city official know as soon as possible. They shouldn’t be messing with it.”

Collins hopes residents can form a neighborhood watch of sorts to keep tabs on their own street signs and whether anyone is damaging or stealing them.

As soon as a stop sign or traffic light is damaged or stolen, Collins has to replace it immediately to prevent any risk.

On the possibility of local teenagers stealing them, he said that’s usually his first instinct due to some young people’s belief the city property enhances their home décor.

“They love to decorate their rooms with these signs,” he said.

“Especially the stop signs and deer crossing ones. They think it’s like a John Deere logo.”