Road signs valued at $11,000 stolen, damaged

Published 11:08 am Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SEDLEY—Since May, 115 road signs have been either stolen or damaged — many beyond repair — between Sedley and Black Creek.

The cost of replacing the signs: $11,000, according to an official with Virginia Department of Transportation in Franklin.

“They’re pulling them out of the ground, pushing them over, dragging them down and cutting them off,” said Joe Lomax, VDOT residency maintenance manager for Southampton, Isle of Wight, Sussex and Greensville counties.

“Sometimes they are completely gone or they are damaged beyond repair,” Lomax added. “They take a truck and push them over, and must run them over with the truck.”

Virginia State Police in Franklin are investigating.

“We don’t have leads or suspects at this point,” Sgt. A. Williams said Tuesday. “Unfortunately this is something that comes up every now and then. Southampton is such a big county, and it’s extremely difficult to be everywhere.”

Stop signs are targeted the most, Lomax said. They have been stolen from several roads within a 10- to 15-square mile area, including Unity, Vicksville, Drake and Tucker Swamp roads. It’s believed most thefts have occurred at night, although there’s been some taken during the day.

The thefts happen in waves.

“During some weekends in June and July, we had nine or 10 signs gone,” Lomax said. “Some days, on weekends, if we put it (a sign) up in the morning, that evening it was gone again.”

If a stop sign is removed, VDOT workers are on 24-hour call to replace them with a permanent or temporary sign, he said.

Lomax’s biggest concern is a motorist getting into an accident due to a missing stop sign.

“We have a lot of young drivers, elderly drivers, farm equipment, school busses and out-of-towners, and it’s very dark at night,” he said.

Vandals face criminal charges and could be sued.

“Let’s say you take down a stop sign and it causes a crash,” Williams said. “You could be implicated in a huge civil suit.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the State Police at 562-3004, Southampton County Sheriff’s Office at 653-2100 or VDOT at 1-800-367-7623.