Street sign theft

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A sticker on the back of this Illinois street sign is intended to deter theft.

Street sign theft occurs when street signs are stolen, to be used as decorations, sold as scrap metal or to avoid obeying the law by claiming later the sign was not there.[citation needed] Although the theft often seems arbitrary, signs with unusual or amusing names tend to be stolen more frequently. Sometimes considered to be a prank by the perpetrators, the theft is often costly and inconvenient (and can possibly be dangerous) for the municipality or agency that owns the sign. In the United States, each street sign generally costs between $100 and $500 to replace.[1][2]

In law[edit]

In most jurisdictions, the theft of traffic signage is treated like any other theft with respect to prosecution and sentencing. If, however, the theft leads to an injury, then the thieves may be found criminally liable for the injury as well, provided that an injury of that sort was a foreseeable consequence of such a theft. In one notable United States case, three people were found guilty of manslaughter for stealing a stop sign and thereby causing a deadly collision.[3][4][5] This was publicized in the novel Driver's Ed by Caroline B. Cooney.

Prevention[edit]

The residents of Shitterton, a small village in Dorset, England, collectively purchased this large stone sign to deter frequent theft.
A view up Penny Lane from the Halls of Residence

Some jurisdictions place stickers on street signs warning of the legal punishment for their theft. Some cities (e.g. Toronto) use specially designed bolts to attach signs and prevent removal. With some of the more popular street names such as Liverpool's famous "Penny Lane", authorities gave up the practice of constantly replacing signs and simply resorted to painting the name of the street on the walls. Other jurisdictions offer replica street signs for sale to discourage theft. For route markers or mile markers that contain numbers with suggestive meanings, such as 69, 420, or 666, the number may be changed to avoid sign theft.[6]

Examples[edit]

Austria[edit]

  • After frequent thefts of its welcome sign at the town boundary, the Austrian village of Fucking installed theft-resistant signs in 2005.[7] The town changed its name to Fugging in 2020.[8]

Canada[edit]

Germany[edit]

  • Due to the heavy metal festival that is named after the place, the small hamlet of Wacken in Northern Germany had to deal with street sign theft.[10]

The Netherlands[edit]

Signs prohibiting public consumption of cannabis in Amsterdam were frequent targets of theft.
  • All the signs of the Dutch village Maaskantje were stolen since the New Kids comedy sketch show on Comedy Central (which is situated in the village) became popular (in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany). The municipality of Maaskantje decided not to replace the stolen signs.[11]
  • In Amsterdam, signs prohibiting the consumption of cannabis were a frequent target of theft, prompting the city to offer replicas of the sign for sale.[12]

Spain[edit]

  • Leganés, Spain dedicated some streets to rock groups like AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Rosendo. The AC/DC sign was stolen days after inauguration. Leganés authorities now offer identical signs for sale.[13]

Sweden[edit]

Swedish moose warning sign
  • Sweden's distinctive warning sign for moose is noted for its tendency to be stolen, traditionally by German tourists.[14][15]
  • The sign "Grovare 6", pointing to the small village Grovare in Sweden, 6 km from the sign, was often stolen. "Grovare" means "rougher" in Swedish with slightly wrong grammar, and the number 6 is spelt "sex". The new sign says "Grovare 5", even though it is still 6 km.[16]

United Kingdom[edit]

  • The signs on Abbey Road in London, England were often stolen by Beatles fans until the city council mounted them on buildings.[citation needed]
  • Street signs on Butt Hole Road in England were stolen over time, because of the use of butt hole as a slang term for "anus".[17] The street was eventually renamed to Archers Way in 2009.[18]
  • The village of Shitterton in the United Kingdom saw its welcome sign stolen so often that in 2007 the local council stopped replacing it. The village's residents eventually contributed funds to buy a one-and-a-half-tonne stone slab with the town's name engraved on it as a permanent replacement.[19]

United States[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Church, Zach (July 29, 2007). "The cost of Vandalism: Time, frustration and cash". Eagle-Tribune. Archived from the original on July 29, 2012.
  2. ^ Moeur, Richard C. "Manual of Traffic Signs".
  3. ^ "Defendants get 15-year Prison Sentences for stop-sign killings". CNN. June 20, 1997. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  4. ^ "Stop-sign group challenges sentence". St. Petersburg Times. March 24, 2001.
  5. ^ Baillie, Cole, and Miller were sentenced to between 27 and 46 years in prison, but would go free after only five years after a judge ordered a retrial because the prosecutor had overemphasized certain evidence in her closing arguments. The prosecution declined to bring the case a second time.[1] Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine [2]
  6. ^ a b c "Thefts of '666' road sign bedeviling N.J. officials". NBC News. Associated Press. September 29, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  7. ^ "What's the F-ing joke?". Theage.com.au. September 3, 2005. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
  8. ^ Dallison, Paul (November 26, 2020). "Austrian village of Fucking to be renamed Fugging". Politico Europe. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  9. ^ Zahir, Fazile (February 4, 2008). "Kebabble: Turkey's costly signs of the times". Asia Times Online. Fethiye, Turkey. Archived from the original on May 14, 2008. Retrieved November 7, 2015.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  10. ^ a b Conradt, Stacy (February 18, 2016). "10 Most Commonly Stolen Street Signs". Mental Floss. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  11. ^ "Alle borden Maaskantje gestolen". Hart van Nederland (in Dutch). December 29, 2009. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
  12. ^ "Amsterdam deals 'no dope smoking' signs". abc.net.au. Reuters. February 7, 2006. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  13. ^ "Las placas de la 'calle AC/DC' se pondrán a la venta a partir del próximo lunes". El Mundo (in Spanish). April 5, 2000.
  14. ^ "Stulna älgskyltar är ett problem". July 6, 2002. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  15. ^ Nyheter, SVT. "Älgsafari slår besöksrekord". Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  16. ^ Visible in Google Street View at 57°55′54.83″N 13°13′8.38″E / 57.9318972°N 13.2189944°E / 57.9318972; 13.2189944 as of June 2018.
  17. ^ "Butthole". Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Pearson Education. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
  18. ^ Kessen, David (May 27, 2009). "Residents club together to finally change embarrassing street name". The Star. Yorkshire Post Newspapers. Archived from the original on July 21, 2009. Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  19. ^ Adams, Stephen (July 23, 2009). "Shitterton and a sign of the times". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved August 4, 2010.
  20. ^ "Denver's Mail-Order Corona Street Signs Selling Briskly". AP NEWS. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  21. ^ "Record $105,400 Prize Money Listed for Grand Prix Sunday". The New York Times. September 27, 1967.
  22. ^ Transportation Planning and Programming Division (n.d.). "State Highway No. 69". Highway Designation Files. Texas Department of Transportation. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  23. ^ "Racy Route 69 Gets New Number". Salt Lake Tribune. April 15, 1994.
  24. ^ Staff. "Minutes of the Regular Monthly Meeting: January 24 and 25, 2007, Salem" (PDF). Oregon Transportation Commission. p. 4.
  25. ^ "Renaming US 666 Prompts a Run on 'Satanic' Souvenirs". The New York Times. July 20, 2003. Archived from the original on March 27, 2008. Retrieved November 17, 2007.
  26. ^ "State alters 420 MM sign to thwart thieves". Denver, CO: KUSA. January 10, 2014. Archived from the original on January 11, 2014. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  27. ^ "Idaho replaces mile marker 420 with 419.9 in attempt to thwart stoners". The Guardian, August 18, 2015.
  28. ^ "Interstate 75 North - Columbia, Suwannee, Hamilton Counties - AARoads - Florida". AARoads. September 14, 2020. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  29. ^ Williams, Justin (March 9, 2010). "Kenosha's Richard Bong Recreation Area deals with stolen park signs". WITI-TV Fox 6 News. Archived from the original on October 6, 2011.
  30. ^ "Route 66 information page". Route66usa.com. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
  31. ^ Leigh, Patricia (July 9, 2000). "Welcome to Bolinas: Please keep moving on". The New York Times. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
  32. ^ "Tourists Go "Batty" Over Town". Wilmington, NC Star-News. Associated Press. July 7, 1992. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
  33. ^ Los Angeles Times, 1984
  34. ^ The House On Blue Jay Way That George Harrison Stayed In Los Angeles, feelnumb.com; accessed 2014.04.03.
  35. ^ "Sleeping Bear Dunes Voted 'Most Beautiful Place in America'". ABC News. August 19, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  36. ^ "Michigan dropping 'M' from M-22 signs to deter thieves". MLive.com. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  37. ^ "Harry Baals dropped despite massive poll swell". JOE.ie. Retrieved December 25, 2020.
  38. ^ Youngs, Nick (June 12, 2021). "BJ Road street sign stolen from Derrick Road intersection". WESB. Retrieved June 12, 2021.

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