Traffic sign thieves endanger lives, risk serious jail time

By Tristen Lopez, CSPD Public Information Officer

Since College Station is home to one of the nation’s largest universities, it’s no surprise that pilfered traffic and street signs with catchy names are popular decorations for local dorm rooms and apartments.

It’s just a harmless prank, right? 

Wrong. Stealing signs is a serious crime that endangers others — and it’s happening here at an alarming rate.

Traffic and street signs are intended to protect public safety by regulating, guiding, and warning motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. While absent signs can obviously create hazardous traffic situations, they can also delay first responders answering critical calls for help. A missing no parking sign might even lead to clogged streets that prevent fire trucks from reaching an emergency scene. 

In life-threatening conditions, the outcome can be tragic. 

That’s why the penalty for taking a street or traffic sign is severe. Property theft is a criminal offense that can result in six months in jail and a hefty $2,000 fine. Damage caused while stealing a sign can lead to an additional $500 charge.

The signs aren’t cheap to replace, either.

On average, about 150 signs are stolen each year in College Station. The annual bill to replace them and repair the damage totals around $30,000 — about $200 per sign for our hard-working taxpayers.

Sadly, the problem is getting worse. The number of signs stolen from October through March was about four times the average.

When three college students were arrested in April for stealing signs, one admitted it was part of a fraternity’s pledging process. Most of the individuals caught stealing or illegally possessing street and traffic signs are college-aged residents, and most sign thefts occur in neighborhoods populated predominantly by college students. 

Traffic and street signs are essential parts of a safe and efficient transportation system. If you see someone tampering with a sign or attempting to take it, call the non-emergency police number at 979-764-3600. Report missing or damaged signs through or by calling 979-764-3690.

<strong><em><span style="color:#a5a29d" class="has-inline-color">About the Blogger</span></em></strong>
About the Blogger

Tristen Lopez is in his 12th year with the College Station Police Department. He earned a bachelor’s degree in multi/interdisciplinary studies from Texas A&M in 2006.

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