Wisc. (WLAX/WEUX) – People are stealing more road signs this year. That’s according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which says it’s seen about 80 thefts in its northwest district. Steven Allard says in his 25 years with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation he’s never seen this many road signs taken.

“It doesn’t seem to matter where the location is, they’re taking the sign and post off. A lot of them are the mile markers being stolen, which is a really important sign if somebody gets broken down on the highway, they can page in and get help and let them know what mile marker they’re at.”

Mile marker signs aren’t the only common trophy thieves seek. Dunn County sheriff Kevin Bygd says he’s seen an uptick in thefts locally. One of the most targets is the 420th street signs. Another one is stop signs. Stealing those, however, can be deadly.

“When somebody’s not familiar with the area, especially if a stop sign’s missing in the intersection, they either blow through a T-intersection and hit an embankment on the other side of the road or crosses an intersection and gets hit by somebody they’d normally have to stop and yield to.”

“it could be a matter of life or death out there if the sign’s not there.”

Allard says so far this year. He’s seen about 20 crashes in areas with missing signs. Bygd says his deputies have also responded to a few of them throughout the years. And for those thinking about stealing one. Bygd has a warning.

“It is a crime and we will certainly investigate any leads we get on them. We’ve gone to the extent of putting cameras trying to catch people that knock signs down or steal signs from certain areas. And we will be prosecuting if we catch them.”

In Wisconsin, sign thieves can face fines of up to 100 dollars and 30 days in jail for the first offense. Allard says money to replace signs comes out of the state highway maintenance fund, which is also used to repair potholes and fix roadways.