Sign theft costs taxpayers, threatens safety
August 6, 2009
In the short time since Boundary County adopted county road names and began posting signs, a spate of thefts has added to the already considerable cost, and, worse, has the potential of putting people’s lives and property at risk.
According to Renee Nelson, office manager at County Road and Bridge, there have been about 25 county road name signs and at least a dozen private road name signs stolen in the past year.
“The thefts seem to happen by area,” she said. “One sign will go missing, then others on nearby roads will be stolen. Then the thefts shift to another area.”
Areas throughout the county have been affected, she said, from Highway 2 near the Montana border to right across the highway from the road and bridge offices.
And the cost isn’t limited to the theft of the sign, which cost anywhere from $50 to $80 each … in most cases, the post the sign is attached to is so badly damaged it has to be replaced as well, along with any other signs that may have been attached.
“We’ve seen posts broken off, cut with a chainsaw, even backed into and snapped off by trucks,” Nelson said. “At intersections, there are usually two signs taken, as well as stop signs.”
On county roads, it’s the taxpayer that pays the cost for this vandalism; on private roads, it’s the residents of the road, who’ve already paid to have the signs put up, who have to bear the cost of having them re-installed.
While the cost of replacing stolen signs is bad, even worse is the potential for delaying emergency response in a life or death situation.
“The reason for adopting the road naming system and putting up the signs was primarily to enable emergency responders to reach the scene of an emergency more quickly,” Nelson said. “When the signs are missing or knocked down, it slows response.”
After a sign is reported missing and is reordered, Nelson said, it takes four to six weeks for delivery, and then it can take up to another week before a crew can be sent to replace it, depending on what projects Road and Bridge has in progress.
According to Chief Deputy Rich Stevens, those who notice missing or vandalized signs should report it to the sheriff’s office by calling (208) 267-3151, extension 0.
“Sometimes, it’s people who like the sign and think it would look good on their wall, in others, it’s people who don’t like the name of the road and take it out on the sign,” he said. “Those responsible for stealing or damaging a sign can be charged with petit theft and malicious injury to property, which are misdemeanors. If it’s found that an individual is responsible for damage to several, they could face felony charges.”