People do steal a street sign. However, although this may seem like a harmless prank, it is a serious crime. Not only is it against the law to steal street signs for keeps or souvenirs, but it can also put drivers and pedestrians in danger. Thus, this article discusses how some citizens go about stealing a street sign and what happens as a result.
How to steal a street sign
Below are the specific steps gathered from a thorough research of real-life reports by people engaged in the act of stealing street signs at some point in time.
1. Plan the street sign heist
Planning is the first step in stealing a street sign. The person has to determine the sign location, when it will be easiest to steal it, and how to get away with it.
Street signs are often in high-traffic areas or places with surveillance cameras, so one will have to choose their target carefully.
Beginner sign thieves often don’t do enough to get ready, like handling the sign. The size of a typical street sign is something that most people don’t know. Most signs are large because they have to be seen from at least 100 feet away and at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
In Texas, for example, the letters for the principal legend on guide signs are 6 to 8 inches in height for conventional roads in rural districts on major routes, and at least 4 inches high on low-volume roads and on urban streets with a speed of 25 mph.
Stop signs and most other road signs have a diameter of two feet. Local signs, like route signs, tend to be a little bit smaller.
Most street signs, which show the names of streets, are hard to steal since they are the one sign everyone in the neighborhood looks at.
2. Take a preparatory tour around the sign
The citizen will attempt to walk by the targeted sign severally. They look at where it is, what kind of cover is around it, how they can see it, and how traffic flows at different times of the day.
The perpetrator looks out for things like security cameras, police patrols, or anything else that could make it hard to pull off the heist.
They make sure to know what kind of bolts are holding it on, how many there are, and where they are on the sign. The bolts are different, but the backs are always standard hex nuts. Some are round and smooth, some are hex bolts, and some are round and have a slot for a flathead.
If one of the last two is on this sign, they bring the right tool for the front side, which makes it easier to steal a street sign.
3. Decide the time of the day
The best time to follow through with the plan of stealing a street sign is at night. During the daytime, drivers and other pedestrians are much more likely to see a car parked on the side of the road with someone standing awkwardly around a sign pole.
The person won’t wear anything that will stand out in the dark. They understand that if they are hanging from the top of a road sign and a pair of high beams see their yellow shirt, the driver will be very suspicious. While most drivers will keep going, there’s always one Good Samaritan who will try to question the potential road sign thief.
4. Gather the needed tools
They will need some basic tools, like a wrench or pliers, to take down a street sign.
If the sign is up high, they might also need a ladder or a step stool to get to it. Of course, anyone who makes up their mind to steal a street sign is aware that if they are caught using power tools or damaging the sign in any way, they will get in trouble.
5. Wear the right clothes
To steal a street sign, the perpetrator will dress in a way that doesn’t draw attention to them. They typically just wear dark clothes to blend in with their surroundings and stay away from bright colors that might make them stand out. Or, the person or group of persons could dress up like the city’s transportation department.
They also would not wear clothes with logos or patterns that could be used to find them later.
6. Take the street sign down
Once they have planned the theft, gathered the tools needed, and checked out the area, it’s time to take down the sign.
The wrench or pliers will become useful for loosening the bolts that are holding the sign in place. If the bolts are rusty or hard to loosen, they might use a lubricant.
Once the bolts are out, they speedily and carefully lift the sign off its post and put it in a bag or backpack.
If the sign is attached using adhesive, the thief may need to use a solvent or other chemical to dissolve the adhesive. In some cases, the thief may need to use a saw or other cutting tool to remove the sign from its mounting.
7. Get away ASAP
After taking down the sign, they leave the area as soon as possible to avoid being caught. They walk or run as fast as they can to a nearby car or public transit and leave the area right away.
They would typically avoid looking suspicious not to get people’s attention. Staying calm and acting like nothing out of the ordinary has happened is the key to escaping with a stolen street sign.
Determined persons do have a car they can use to get away. It can be an old pickup truck or anything else with a trunk. Usually, the car is parked close enough to make a quick getaway but not too close to the targeted street sign.
If the targeted sign is in a residential area, they keep the car and its driver about a block away. The driver is typically able to see what’s going on and can use that as an excuse to start the escape with a cool hand signal.
8. Move the sign
After the sign has been taken down, it needs to be moved to a safe place. This could be as easy as just carrying it away or putting it in a car. Sometimes, the thieves will hide the sign somewhere nearby and then retrieve it later.
9. Get rid of the proof
To avoid getting caught, they get rid of any signs that they stole the street sign. It may include taking off any tools or clothes that could be used to track them and throwing them away in a dumpster or trash can away from the crime scene.
It’s also a good idea to take off any stickers or other markings that could be used to trace the sign back to them.
When they get back to the house, they use soap and water to clean the street sign. It also feels good to wash the hands, which is a metaphor for getting rid of the crime on one’s hands.
Many people think that finding a place to hang the sign is the hardest part of stealing a sign. This can only be true if they live with parents or if their roommate is a police officer.
If this is the case, they simply hang the sign in their closet and make a small shrine for it.
The most common place to hang a stolen street sign is on the wall in the living room. If there isn’t a lot of room, any kind of wall in the garage or wherever will do.
What happens if you get caught with a stolen street sign?
While the sudden burst of energy may seem thrilling, a stolen street sign can get you in trouble if you’re caught. You would face legal consequences as well as suffer damage to your reputation.
Stealing a street sign is illegal. In Virginia, you will be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Generally, however, the penalty for stealing a street sign is that you might have to pay a fine, go to jail, or do community service.
If you’re caught with a stolen street sign, it can also hurt your reputation and chances of getting a job or finding a place to live in the future.
In addition, consider the safety concerns. Street signs are an important part of the infrastructure that helps keep drivers and pedestrians safe. If stolen, you make it harder for other people to find their way around, which puts them in danger.
Do street signs have tracking devices?
There are no trackers in street signs. Street signs are usually used to tell drivers and pedestrians things like the name of a street, how to get somewhere, or the rules of the road. They don’t have devices that can track them.
What size bolt holds on a street sign?
5/16″ x 1-1/2″ size bolts hold on a street sign, parking signs, and property signs, and are made of zinc. Each set has 2 nuts, two washers made of polyurethane, and two bolts with hex heads that have been coated with zinc. Signs with 3/8″ mounting holes can be put on U-Channel posts and square posts with these bolts.
How much is a street sign worth?
Regulatory, warning, marker, and small guide signs on flat sheet panels are worth $25 to $35 per square foot. Larger guide signs on extruded panels or frames are worth $30 to $40 per square foot.
Some people like the thrill of getting away with a stolen a street sign. You might put the sign up in your home or send pictures of it to friends. But you may not get to enjoy this for long as you might eventually get caught.