Over the past few months, the county has taken action to mitigate a growing problem in the county: people stealing E-911 signs.
Road crews are frequently remaking and replacing various signs that are stolen.
“These signs are being stolen daily sometimes,” stated County Road Manager Brian Dace. “When I say that, we could put up a sign today and it be gone sometime the next day. Most of the time, it’s gone within a couple of days.”
The county has to make the signs and pay for the workers to install the new signs each time. Unfortunately, this is very costly for the county. The signs that are being stolen the most are the E-911 signs on the stop signs. These signs could cost up to around $68 or more to replace each time. With labor and all, it is estimated that close to $200 is spent on each sign. This means that with around 40 signs going missing each month, the county is having to spend close to $8,000 a month just to replace stolen E-911 signs.
Naturally there are some areas that see sign theft more than others.
“We see a lot of signs taken in the County Road 420 area,” stated Dace. “We have some in District 5, which is the 600, 630, 632 area. Those are the main areas that are worse than anywhere else. We find them down all the time where people hit them, but it really seems like the northeast part of the county in District 4 is where we seem to be having the worst problem.”
According to Sheriff Todd Kemp, stealing signs is classified as a misdemeanor. Anyone who is caught stealing a sign will be charged.
There is also a fine that can be charged to anyone who steals a sign thanks to an ordinance set by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors years ago.
“About 20 years ago or so, we set about a $500 fine,” said Paul Mosley, President for the Board of Supervisors.
Steps are now being taken to catch those responsible for taking the signs.
“We have cameras located strategically throughout the county, and we’re going to catch some of the sign stealing as well as people dumping trash,” explained Dace.
The sign theft causes a much larger issue than just costing the county time and money each month. The signs are designed to assist medical responders and law enforcement when they are responding to 911 calls. When the signs are not up because they were stolen, it causes a delay in response that could possibly result in tragedy.
“If you were to have a new ambulance driver and they can’t find the road because it’s not identified, then the patient could very well die before they’re seen,” explained Dace.
Anyone who has been stealing signs in the county is encouraged to stop. Until then, law enforcement officers and county employees will continue to take the appropriate steps to identify and detain the culprits.