By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Street signs are disappearing at a rate that is disturbing Warren County officials enough that Wednesday they decided to do something about it.
The epidemic of thefts led them to announce an offer of $100 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those doing the stealing or possessing the lost signs.
In a press release, County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley said the county had ordered 163 replacement signs through Aug. 28 compared to 152 ordered for the entirety of 2011.
"The theft of signs is a serious matter and represents a threat to the county's ability to protect the public's health, safety, and welfare," Stanley said, adding "it costs the county $151.35 to replace an intersection sign."
Some replacement signs also are stolen in as little as 24 hours after their installation, Stanley said.
The county spends $10,000 to $15,000 a year replacing street signs and takes about three weeks to order and install a new sign after the notification of each theft, according to the news release.
Law enforcement and fire and rescue officials said the signs are important in locating homes and businesses calling for emergency help.
"It causes a big problem for fire and rescue and law enforcement if they're not familiar with roads out there and where the roads go," Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron said in a telephone interview.
Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie said the signs' reflective lettering, "if missing, may cause a deadly time delay due to poor weather conditions or very dark nights."
McEathron said he had no research on how many people his department has arrested for stealing street signs. He said many are discarded alongside the roadway not far from where they were taken.
"Everyone once in a while we get a rash of sign thefts or find them dumped in a big pile somewhere," he said. "We don't know how many people are stealing them."
Deputy County Administrator Robert Childress said the street signs are also important to delivery services such as UPS and FedEx.
"Any visitor to Warren County depends on clear, accurate and properly secured road name signs to easily find their destination," Childress said.
Anyone with information on street sign thefts is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 635-4128.