Highway sign thefts on rise in parts of western Kentucky

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2023

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The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is seeking help from the public to combat a significant increase in highway sign thefts, especially in the Jackson Purchase area of western Kentucky.

While crashes have traditionally been the main cause of sign loss, according to Kyle Poat, Chief Engineer of KYTC District 1 in Paducah, incidents of theft have been on the rise.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve noticed several areas where signs have been disappearing with some regularity,” he said.  “We have employees commuting to work who report clusters of missing signs that are up one day and gone the next.  Our sign crew puts up replacements only to have those signs disappear within a few days.”

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District 1 is working with area police agencies to use hidden cameras to monitor locations where highway sign theft has been a persistent problem.  Anyone caught in the act of stealing signs or caught on camera can be prosecuted.  They also can be held liable for injuries that occur as the result of a crash due to a stolen sign.

Last year, KYTC District 1 spent more than $750,000 replacing non-interstate signage in the 12-county region.

“While sign theft costs the taxpayers money, the main issue is the safety hazard that is created when a sign is stolen, particularly if it is a stop sign,” Poat said.  “We have a location where a yield sign has been stolen several times, creating a safety hazard for everyone who travels through the intersection.”

He added, “Area salvage and scrap metal yards are very unlikely to purchase highway signs for scrap metal, so they are of little value for scrap. However, when you include the time and effort required for installation, they can cost taxpayers $200 or more apiece.  We think the public can play a big part in helping us to substantially reduce highway sign theft across the region.”

Anyone who has information that can help identify sign thieves can contact the Kentucky State Police Mayfield Post at 270-856-3721, their local Sheriff’s Office, or city police.  Poat noted that any suspicious activity that appears to be someone attempting to steal a sign should be reported.