Street sign theft

A sticker on the back of this Illinois street sign is intended to deter theft.

Street sign theft occurs when street signs are stolen, often to be used as decorations, but also sometimes to avoid obeying the law by claiming later the sign was not there. Although the theft often seems arbitrary, signs that are unusual or amusing tend to be stolen more frequently. Sometimes considered to be a prank by the perpetrators, the theft is often costly and inconvenient (and can possibly be dangerous) for the municipality or agency that owns the sign. In the United States, each street sign generally costs between $100 and $500 to replace.[1][2]

In law

In most jurisdictions, the theft of traffic signage is treated like any other theft with respect to prosecution and sentencing. If, however, the theft leads to an injury, then the thieves may be found criminally liable for the injury as well, provided that an injury of that sort was a foreseeable consequence of such a theft. In one notable United States case, three people were found guilty of manslaughter for stealing a stop sign and thereby causing a deadly collision.[3][4][5] This was publicized in the novel Driver's Ed by Caroline B. Cooney.


The residents of Shitterton, a small village in Dorset, England, collectively purchased this large stone sign to deter frequent theft.

Some jurisdictions place stickers on street signs warning of the legal punishment for their theft. Some cities (e.g. Toronto) use specially designed bolts to attach signs and prevent removal. With some of the more popular street names such as Liverpool's famous "Penny Lane", authorities gave up the practice of constantly replacing signs and simply resorted to painting the name of the street on the walls. Other jurisdictions offer replica street signs for sale to discourage theft. For route markers or mile markers that contain numbers with suggestive meanings, such as 69, 420, or 666, the number may be changed to avoid sign theft.[6]


A view up Penny Lane from the Halls of Residence

See also


  1. Church, Zach (July 29, 2007). "The cost of Vandalism: Time, frustration and cash". Eagle-Tribune.
  2. Moeur, Richard C. "Manual of Traffic Signs".
  3. "Defendants get 15-year Prison Sentences for stop-sign killings". CNN. June 20, 1997. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  4. "Stop-sign group challenges sentence". St. Petersburg Times. March 24, 2001.
  5. Baillie, Cole, and Miller were sentenced to between 27 and 46 years in prison, but would go free after only five years after a judge ordered a retrial because the prosecutor had overemphasized certain evidence in her closing arguments. The prosecution declined to bring the case a second time.
  6. 1 2 3 "Thefts of '666' road sign bedeviling N.J. officials". NBC News. Associated Press. September 29, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  7. "Las placas de la 'calle AC/DC' se pondrán a la venta a partir del próximo lunes". El Mundo (in Spanish). April 5, 2000.
  8. "Record $105,400 Prize Money Listed for Grand Prix Sunday". The New York Times. September 27, 1967.
  9. Transportation Planning and Programming Division (n.d.). "State Highway No. 69". Highway Designation Files. Texas Department of Transportation. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  10. "Racy Route 69 Gets New Number". Salt Lake Tribune. April 15, 1994.
  11. "Renaming US 666 Prompts a Run on 'Satanic' Souvenirs". The New York Times. July 20, 2003. Retrieved November 17, 2007.
  12. "State alters 420 MM sign to thwart thieves". Denver, CO: KUSA. January 10, 2014. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  13. "Idaho replaces mile marker 420 with 419.9 in attempt to thwart stoners". The Guardian, August 18, 2015.
  14. Williams, Justin (2010-03-09). "Kenosha's Richard Bong Recreation Area deals with stolen park signs". WITI-TV Fox 6 News.
  15. "Route 66 information page". Retrieved August 24, 2009.
  16. Zahir, Fazile (February 4, 2008). "Kebabble: Turkey's costly signs of the times". Asia Times Online. Fethiye, Turkey. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  17. Leigh, Patricia (July 9, 2000). "Welcome to Bolinas: Please keep moving on". The New York Times. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
  18. "Butthole". Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Pearson Education. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
  19. Kessen, David (May 27, 2009). "Residents club together to finally change embarrassing street name". The Star. Yorkshire Post Newspapers. Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  20. "What's the F-ing joke?". September 3, 2005. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
  21. Adams, Stephen (July 23, 2009). "Shitterton and a sign of the times". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved August 4, 2010.
  22. "Alle borden Maaskantje gestolen". Hart van Nederland (in Dutch). December 29, 2009. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
  23. "Tourists Go "Batty" Over Town". Wilmington, NC Star-News. Associated Press. July 7, 1992. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
  24. Los Angeles Times, 1984
  25. The House On Blue Jay Way That George Harrison Stayed In Los Angeles,; accessed 2014.04.03.

External links

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