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Sign Vandalism Is A Costly Safety Issue

HALE COUNTY – It’s not a harmless prank or a joking matter. Tampering, vandalizing or removing traffic signs is a crime—not to mention a serious safety hazard that puts lives at risk.

“Serious consequences can result when signs are moved, knocked down or stolen. People can be seriously injured or killed,” said Heath Bozeman, P.E., Texas DOT Plainview area engineer. “Signs just don’t provide road designations. They communicate important information to travelers, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the area.”

Damaging, destroying or stealing state property or state traffic control devices including road signs is a Class C misdemeanor if the damage is less than $100; a Class B misdemeanor if the damage is between $100 and $750; a Class A misdemeanor if the damage is between $750 and $2,500. The Class A crime is punishable by up to $4,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail. If the damage is between $2,500 and $20,000, the crime is a state jail felony and is punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and between 180 days and 2 years in state jail.

In recent weeks, several roadway signs in Hale County have been stolen. Replacing stolen or damaged signs takes limited funds for roadway maintenance away from needed projects and repairs. Statewide, it costs Texas taxpayers millions of dollars annually to replace these signs, including knocked-down and gunshot damaged signs, along with damaged mailbox posts.

The cost of replacing signs ranges from the hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the type of sign. Several signs on FM 400, FM 3183 and other Hale County FM roads have been recently stolen.

But it’s not just about money.

“Traffic control devices are essential to safety. Although sometimes viewed as a harmless prank, tampering or removing any roadway sign, barricade or obstructing the roadway with construction barrels or other items can have tragic and deadly results," Bozeman said.

TxDOT continues to ask the public for their help by reporting missing signs and for information leading to the return of stolen signs or to the conviction of the persons responsible for sign thefts and vandalism.