Lacombe County suspects the same culprit is behind a string of stop sign thefts.
Bill Cade, county operations director, said someone has repeatedly targeted a stop sign at a specific location in the west-central part of the county.
“In this particular area, it’s been ongoing for three months now where randomly the same sign is stolen or pulled out and left on the ground. And we’re constantly having to replace them,” he said, adding crews have replaced the sign six to 10 times already.
“Because it’s the same location over and over again, we assume that it’s probably the same individuals who are doing it.”
Whether it is someone with a particular hate on for a particular stop sign location or some other motivation, the end result is that a dangerous situation is created.
Drivers not seeing a stop sign may assume there is one for traffic coming from the other directions. That mistake could lead to some serious collisions.
Cade said those who tamper with stop signs and it led to a collision causing injury or death could find themselves in serious legal trouble.
In 1997, three young Florida men were sentenced to 15 years in prison for removing a stop sign from an intersection where three teenagers were later killed when their car was hit by a Mack truck.
In September, 2013, Ottawa officials warned the public to be on the alert for sign theft after more than 100 stops signs were stolen already that year, including 19 in one week alone.
Every once in a while there seems to be a rash of stop sign thefts. Last year, the eastern side of the county was hit by stop sign vandals.
Young souvenir hunters looking for an eye-catching wall decoration are suspected of being behind some thefts, but in other cases the thefts are likely a sign of protest. After a time, thefts usually stop.
In the meantime, the county is asking rural residents to keep an eye out for any indication stop signs have been interfered with and to report it to them.
The county is considering surveillance, setting up trail cams like those used by hunters, to try to catch culprits in the act.