Popular county road markers stolen over the years include Nighthawk Road, Falcon Road and Eagle Road. Chisholm Trail and Alamo Road, too. But by far the most popular one to steal is Mustang Road.
“They disappear as quick as they put them up, seems like,” Sheriff Robert Craft said.
The county’s road and bridge department, struggling to meet new sign regulations, is introducing a program in which anyone can order a road marker for an intersection with a donation of $100.
It’s called the Marion County Voluntary Road Sign Replacement Program, and the $100 buys two road signs on top of a post, which county workers will install. Putting up a sign at every intersection is too expensive. Priority must be given to more heavily trafficked roads, Jesse Smith, sign supervisor, said.
“The only downside is that if someone pays $100 and we put up a new sign, we’re not guaranteeing that nothing will happen to the sign,” Smith said. “If somebody steals it or it’s shot up, it’s just up to that person whether they want to pay another $100 for another sign.”
Thieves who target their favorite road marker usually also steal the cross street marker. Sign brackets are made of galvanized material and over time the screws connecting the two signs seize together.
“You can’t get them apart,” Smith said.
So even though numbered road signs like 310th Rd. might not be in demand among thieves, they often are hauled away along with targeted markers.
Besides road markers, Smith said railroad-crossing signs and stop signs have always been popular to take.
“People who like to go hunting might like the Remington Road and Quail Creek Road signs and put them down in their man cave,” Smith said.
Craft said his deputies do not normally receive an invitation to visit someone’s garage or basement decorated with stolen road signs. But if they did, “we’ll take enforcement action,” he said.
Road signs tend to go missing more often in the northwest and central parts of the county, Craft said.
Stealing a road sign is usually a misdemeanor crime but can be a felony if removing the sign creates a dangerous situation, such as a railroad sign or a yield sign, County Attorney Susan Robson said. Violators also are responsible for paying for new signs, Robson said.
“If we find them, we do prosecute them,” Robson said. “Sometimes it’s hard.”
The county is responsible for road signs in rural and unincorporated areas, not within any incorporated municipalities.
Smith was replacing damaged bridge marker signs in Durham when a neighbor informed him that he was wasting his time. A nearby farmer wouldn’t take the header off his combine, the neighbor said. When Smith returned to the area days later, the new signs had been scratched and banged up again.
Smith, who replaced longtime traffic sign supervisor Dennis Maggard on Oct. 31, said the new program has just started, and he hasn’t received any commitments yet.
“It will just take some time to be able to determine how well this is going to work,” Smith said. “But I think it might surprise you how many people are willing to contribute to a program like this.”