If you’ve been wondering where your local animal control officer has been, he has been busy replacing road signs to the tune of $45,000, according to the Camden County Sheriff’s Office.
According to a press release issued by the CCSO, since the start of 2017 over $45,000 worth of parts and labor have been invested into replacing signs stolen from Camden County roads. While signs are often stolen by people for novelty purposes, many signs have been stolen by “scrappers” — individuals who are stealing road signs and poles and attempting to sell them to scrapyards. The press release says reputable scrapyards will notify police when signs come in, but many businesses fail to do so.
The money for road signs is in the Camden County 911 funds. So far they have avoided pulling from this year’s budget by utilizing materials they had on hand from previous purchases. But that supply is almost out, and the budget for sign replacement this year is set at $5,000. When that runs out, the county will have to start pulling money from other 911 services.
The cost, then, will be two-fold: First, money pulled from there takes away from life-saving services and is better spent elsewhere. Second is the potential for delay in emergency response. Emergency services rely on those signs as much as typical drivers do to find their way around. If an ambulance can’t find the way to a call, crucial minutes are lost.
“These people are willing to risk the lives of your family and friends for a piece of aluminum and the post it is attached too,” says Camden County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Arlyne Page. “This costs all of us and when an emergency service vehicle can't find you, it could cost in the worst possible way, with a loss of life. A loss that could have been avoided.”
Mapping and addressing specialist J.R. Reiter says the 911 department has had to replace approximately 500 to 600 signs so far.
“The ridiculous thing is that we’ll put a replacement up, and two days later it’s gone,” said Reiter.
He also said that they take care of mostly rural signs. Cities are in charge of their own signs, and apart from a few special road districts, the 911 services have to cover the entirety of the county. The department has one person to take care of that task. That person, along with the CCSO Animal Control Officer, are struggling to keep up with the replacement.
The CCSO is asking for the public’s help in reigning in the rampant thefts. They ask that if you see anyone tampering with signs or notice any missing signs, do not approach them and call the Sheriff’s Office immediately.
“We are asking for your help,” said Lieutenant Page. “We want to find these thieves and put them behind bars where they could stare at metal all day.”