Counties spend thousands of dollars each year replacing and repairing vandalized signs and other property. To help deter vandals and assist county governments in their efforts to address this type of crime, State Sen. David Myers has authored Senate Bill 348.
“Our counties have enough responsibilities and worries, they don’t need any more. It’s so frustrating that we even have to make laws to help combat such juvenile behavior as shooting signs and spraying equipment, but we do,” said Myers, R-Ponca City. “Hopefully, by increasing the penalty for such crimes as well as providing higher rewards, we’ll be able to deter this type of vandalism.”
Under current law, county commissioner boards are authorized by the state to offer and pay up to $100 as a reward for the arrest and conviction, or for evidence leading to the arrest and conviction of any person stealing or defacing county road signs. SB 348 would add all other county property to the list along with increasing the allowed reward amount to $1,000. The county commissioner boards’ allowed amount for their reward funds would also be increased from $500 to $2,000.
“This isn’t something that’s just taking place in certain areas – it’s happening all over the state. All of my county commissioners have talked to me about these problems,” said Myers. “What’s scary is I don’t think the people committing these crimes realize how dangerous it is. They don’t think about how it affects others, but just one example is that our 911 dispatchers use signs to direct emergency personnel to where they need to be. If those signs aren’t there it takes longer for people to get the help they need, and depending on the situation just a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.”
The measure was requested by the Oklahoma Association of County Commissioners. The idea for the legislation came from Grant County Commissioner for District 2, Cindy Bobbitt who says vandalism has cost the county tens of thousands of dollars since she got into office four years ago.
“Given how strapped Oklahoma’s counties are, this is a financial issue, but more importantly it is a safety issue,” said Bobbitt. “We’re aren’t just dealing with juvenile pranks, we’re dealing with vandalism that can have severe and even deadly consequences like the stealing of stop signs and the tampering of brakes on county vehicles.”
Bobbitt said the most common types of vandalism include the shooting of signs which ruins their reflectivity, stealing signs for personal use or recycling, and spray painting and damaging equipment and vehicles on worksites.
“When counties are continually paying to repair and replace their signs and equipment, it hurts every taxpayer because the counties are state funded,” said Myers. “Hopefully, this bill will encourage citizens to be more vigilant of what’s going on in their community and the surrounding area, but will also stop the problem at the source by detouring individuals from committing such crime.”