Stolen street signs can cost anywhere from $30 to $200 each to replace, depending on the size, design, number of colors, and customization. Poles and hardware are often damaged or stolen during a theft, adding to the overall cost of restoration. A national epidemic of sign stealing has driven many municipalities to use special security bolts or switch from metal to less-valuable plastic signage, but thieves still make off with thousands of signs each year – costing US taxpayers millions.

    In 2003 an abnormally high number of road markers were stolen in Walker County. The sheriff’s office eventually tracked down and arrested 23 Gordon Lee and Ridgeland students competing to see who could swipe the most signs. Estimates for the number of placards poached ranges from 300 to over 5,000, but the 23 students were only charged with taking about 500. After the arrests, sign theft in Walker dropped back to a normal rate.

    Some thieves will take any sign as part of a game or prank, and any metal sign is at risk of being pulled down and sold for scrap. But the most commonly stolen signs are those with famous, unusual, or humorous names. Some casual sign swipers will take placards that contain their own names or the names of places that have personal significance to them, such as these for Lafayette Street in Ringgold.

    Some argue that sign thieves shouldn’t be punished; stealing signs and playing pranks is a “right of passage” and “everybody does it” at some time or another. Plus the costs of arresting someone for taking a small number of street signs is higher than the cost of simply replacing the signs. But ignoring crime just encourages it – Walker County wouldn’t have had 500+ signs carried off in 2003 if the first few engaged in such behavior had been promptly arrested.

    When law enforcement agencies and other authorities turn a blind eye (intentionally or otherwise) to this type of “minor” crime it encourages the behavior to escalate. We saw that with the sign thefts in 2003 and have seen it for years with uninvestigated arsons in LaFayette. It’s also the reason for a wave of unchecked vandalism currently underway in Rossville and a general increase in crime across Walker and Catoosa.

    Sign burglars, once caught, can face punishments ranging from fines to community service and even (rarely) jail time. Stealing stop signs generally results in much stiffer punishment due to the potential for accidents, and thieves can be charged with manslaughter if an accident actually occurs; a trio of young sign thieves in Florida was sentenced to spend years in prison after a prank killed three teenagers. Even taking street name signs (as we see here) can cause loss of life if it results in an ambulance or fire truck not getting to someone in time.

    The youth involved depicted here are LaFayette natives in their early twenties who will be recognizable to many locals. Several of them were depicted, underage, in photos of a raunchy 2010 college drinking party we discovered online and posted on the LU Facebook earlier this year. Those photos led to a firestorm of controversy – not because of the illegal behavior depicted but because we dared to make them public. “Respectable” adults swarmed in to condemn this blog for daring to call out criminal behavior and defend the kids’ actions.

    We predicted that adult acceptance – even encouragement – of bad behavior would only lead to more of it, and these photos prove that to be correct. These kids have been taught by their parents (and parents of friends) that the law is for other people and they can do anything they want. In light of that, why would we expect to see anything any different from them? No respect for property in Ringgold or elsewhere, and no fear of prosecution when they brazenly posted the photos online for all their friends and relatives to see.

    Someday these youth, and others with the same attitudes, will be adults, pillars of the community as some of their FiSDOP parents and grandparents are – and their uncaring attitudes will continue to reflect the attitudes displayed by those adults who have already been running LaFayette and Walker County into the ground. When someone treats the community and its residents as a personal playground to vandalize or disrespect however they choose, it doesn’t take long for things to fall apart. And until that changes, through demanding accountability for everyone regardless of age, connections, or family name, LaFayette and Walker County will never go beyond being a glorified criminal culture.

    These photos and names of the adolescents in them have been turned over to the appropriate authorities, who will hopefully investigate the sign thefts. But even if they won’t, we’ve posted them here hoping (probably idealistically) that public pressure against the kids or their families will discourage such activity from continuing into the future.

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  1. Show me one other STREET sign anywhere in the state of Georgia that uses a thick GREEN post like that, every single sign I’ve seen in NWGA has a regular metal post that has a concaved middle with drilled holes. (Assuming if it’s necessary to make a smaller sign and the holes being where the screws go into .) The only signs I’ve seen that are in fact Green and still even then are the wheelchair accessible signs in parking lots. (Case in point earlier I said show me a street sign, NOT a parking lot sign). And I seriously doubt these were taken from a parking lot, once again you fail Mr L.U. :) Sorry !

  2. The green post is attached to the “NO ATV’s” sign, which was stolen intact post and all. I’ve seen signs like that in LaFayette and other areas, Children At Play and Buried Gas Line signage, for example. I don’t know if the ATV’s sign is a public or private sign. The street name signs themselves were apparently ripped off the poles they were on and have no connection to the green post.

    Thanks for reading.

    — LU

  3. Youre welcome…….now call the people listed on LaFayette Street in Ringgold and ask them if their sign is missing lol

  4. Wow … and the defense begins.

    My Dad would’ve beat the crap out of me, and after the arrest (they used to arrest vandals & thieves) he would have let me smolder in jail.

    Of course, that was 40 years ago, when there were still some moral values being taught and practiced.

  5. Defense says;
    “Show me one other STREET sign anywhere in the state of Georgia that uses a thick GREEN post like that, every single sign I’ve seen in NWGA has a regular metal post that has a concaved middle with drilled holes. (Assuming if it’s necessary to make a smaller sign and the holes being where the screws go into .) The only signs I’ve seen that are in fact Green and still even then are the wheelchair accessible signs in parking lots. (Case in point earlier I said show me a street sign, NOT a parking lot sign). And I seriously doubt these were taken from a parking lot, once again you fail Mr L.U. :) Sorry !”

    Why in the world would any one human being have such knowledge of street sign design? I have driven past signs for 40 years, and cannot tell you one iota concerning colors, holes, etc..

    Be sure, your sins will find you out.

  6. I drive through Walker and Catoosa Counties every day. Today, I paid particular attention to the poles on which the street signs are attached.

    There is no single style in use.

    1. Most street signs (street names) are atop round, galvinised poles. Just like the one we see being clung to. However, some were attached to the top of stop signs, and some were on other types.
    2. Most road signs (speed limit, mile marker, stop sign, etc) were on one of two types

    A. Square galvinised or rusted poles with holes drilled along all four sides.
    b. The __/—\__ shape with holes drilled down the middle. This is the type of pole the “No all-terrain vehicles” sign is attached to. You cannot see the holes because of the angle of the pole in the photographs.
    That sign may have come from a park or campground. http://www.campgroundsigns.com/Camping-Signs/ATV-Signs.aspx

    Some signs were also attached to 4x4s and 6x6s.

  7. Seeing how this is criminal activity in Catoosa County, I assume the authorities up there are building a case? I’ve noticed the defense has gotten eerily silent on this blog. Perhaps they’ve secured attorneys, who have advised them to “clam up”?

    You can sweep junk under the rug in LaFayette, if you’re in the clique, but I wonder how this will play out? I haven’t seen anything on that lame excuse for a news outlet (CatWalkChatt) concerning this. I know that certain families in LaFayette can squelch them, but I wonder how far the long arm of local law can reach?

    Bet that drunk little girl with blue fingernails really made her momma proud.


  8. They make us all proud every time they go out in public and behave this way. You missed the whole drunken toga party thing from college where one guy in the photo had his goodie bits showing.. I’m tempted to post that here, or at least link to it.

    What do you think?

    — LU

  9. I say show it.

    If they’re proud enough to photo their madness, then the whole world should be privy to it.

  10. Kaitie Jumper’s life be like Ooh Ahh … pathetic is more like it.

    The only thing more disgusting than drunk kids (especially girls) is the knowledge that their parents are ok with it. Their moral compass is broken, and Miss Jumper’s parents and every other parent of these children will reap what they’ve sown one day. ALL humans by nature are born self-centered jackasses, and either that spirit is broken or they grow up to be self-centered jackasses. Looks like a room full of toga-clad donkeys to me.

    Welcome to LaFayette

  11. And they were fine with their 19-20 year old daughters (and sons) with that 25-year-old whose junk was hanging out. You can see from the tag names who else is in that photo, and that helps to understand why this bunch has the attitude they have. They’re untouchable in this community, and as FiSDOP adults will treat the city just like they treated those signs – assuming they even bother coming back here once they finish in school.

    We’re not done with this crowd, there’s at least one more article coming from their antics – this one actually involving law enforcement. Should be a interesting to see what the adult reactions are.

    — LU

  12. I guess this crowd doesn’t have to worry about their picture captured forever costing them a job in the future when a prospective employer figures their party antics don’t jive with company policy. It’s amazing what kids post and how they react with babyish commentary and then find out the backlash hits them squarely in the jaw. Those girls will one day regret this party when their own kids ask, “Mommy, is that really you? What a joke!”

  13. I assume LU, that you have turned this over to Ringgold/Catoosa authorities? It would probably be less likely hidden away if you could get one of the Chattanooga investigative news oullets involved. Maybe they could come to LaFayette and talk to some of these parents?

    These were criminal acts, and need to be dealt with if we are to call ourselves civilized.

  14. We contacted the Ringgold PD before the article was posted, a week or so before it went up. Haven’t heard anything from them, they might consider it a minor issue now compared to all the looting and providing security for damaged homes there. But there’s been a lot less flack from the kids, their friends, and their friends’ parents than we expected to get – might be something going on we aren’t aware of. Hopefully it will be addressed but I’m not going to hold my breath – especially if LPD is asked to get involved.

    — LU

  15. I figure they’ve lawyered-up is the reason for the silence? I bet the lawyers are reading this blog though. I wouldn’t think it would be LPD business as these are adults (in age at least), and if Ringgold squelches this it may be because of Steve Wilson’s buddy/buddy with the Catoosa Co crew. I hope they do the right thing … what say you RINGGOLD???

    What about it Boys-In-Blue?? We know you’re following this!

  16. Yes what these kids did was against the law. However, you can not under any circumstance say you never did anything this foolish or worse in your younger days. I fully respect the generations before me but sometimes I can’t understand why they must pretend they never made a wrong decision or Crazy mistake in their whole life. A big piece of advice to all parents: your children will respect and honor you more if you just be honest with them from the get go….. Don’t lie to them and say, “why I never” because you and they know much better than that. Life is too short to worry about the little things. Everyone should live life everyday like its your last. God bless….

  17. So, are you excusing these little thugs? The major problem with kids these days is the lack of discipline. You should not be your child’s “buddy”, nor peer … you are the boss, and the bottom line should be “do as I say”. All you have to do is go downtown and listen to children bossing their parents around … cursing them, and showing no respect to anybody.

    I pity folks these days as they get older, and need their children to help them. There’s a whole society of self-centered brats who don’t know how to work, and will turn to crime in the very near future. Watch & see. The ones who were raised with a belt, and can take orders (we all answer to someone) will be ok, but the rest will suffer.