Stolen sign nearly costs a life

Published 6:36 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Boyle County emergency crews were delayed when they responded to a call on Brumfield Road for a child in distress on Jan. 10. Ambulances had trouble finding the road because its sign was missing. 

A child who lived on the road was having trouble breathing. When emergency workers missed Brumfield Road, they did not know what had happened until they reached Doctor’s Fork Baptist Church on Lebanon Road, at which point they got back on course. 

The delay cost up to six to eight minutes, according to Perryville Police Chief Parker Hatter. He said the drive from Danville to that part of the county is normally around 10 to 12 minutes for emergency crews. The delay was significant.

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“When you’re having difficulty breathing, time is of the essence obviously, and when it’s a small child that makes it even more difficult,” Hatter said.

Hatter explained that on the western end of the county, GPS is not always accurate and many people have spotty cell service. Emergency crews do use GPS, but they rely mainly on street signs.

“It just makes our job, as far as police, fire department, EMS, it just makes everyone’s job easier by having these markers and road signs in place,” he said.

The child’s grandmother called Hatter’s office explaining what happened. While Brumfield Road is not within Perryville city limits, Hatter made a public service announcement on Perryville Police Department’s Facebook page about the incident. He encouraged people who know of anyone stealing street signs to tell them to stop. Hatter said the post was very well received. 

Workers from the Boyle County Road Department replaced the sign the same day the incident happened.

“They do a great job as far as replacing those signs, but when it’s not brought to anyone’s attention and they don’t know, they can’t replace them,” Hatter said.

The sign for Brumfield Road had been stolen several times in the past. Hatter said according to the child’s grandmother, the sign had been gone for a while.

Hatter said often when signs are stolen, no one thinks to report them missing, then the road has no sign for a time. He doesn’t know of any signs missing in Perryville, but said there are probably others missing in the county. He encouraged people to report them.

“In my home back in Casey County, there’s a lot of roads and side roads that have signs missing because it may have someone’s last name on the sign, or a unique name,” Hatter explained.

He continued, “They like the sign so they steal the sign. A lot of people think it’s a victimless crime, it’s a harmless crime, but we have this situation where it could have been possibly fatal for that young child.”

He said people who steal the signs are usually juveniles or high school kids, and they do so for a prank. They have not caught the person who stole the Brumfield Road sign, and no one has come forward with any information about who did.

In most states, sign theft is a misdemeanor, and the penalty is a fine and possibly up to a year in jail. If someone steals lots of signs, they could be charged with the felony of grand larceny, which would lead to state prison, and fines and restitution.

Perryville police have talked about doing more patrols in the area. They are spreading word about the issue to the community through social media, daily interactions with citizens, and working with schools. They are also looking out for other missing signs.

“With this incident, we are starting to pay a little more attention to it, which in the past, you may have driven past that street numerous times and not thought about it,” Hatter said. 

He encouraged anyone with information about people stealing street signs to contact the police. If anyone knows someone stealing them but would not like to come forward, Hatter asks citizens to discourage people from that theft.