SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Some might call it a prank, but Sumner County Road Superintendent Toby Ellis isn’t laughing.

Street and stop signs have been disappearing along rural roads throughout Sumner County, especially in Portland and Westmoreland, according to Ellis. Not only has it created problems for delivery drivers trying to drop off important medication or other life-saving items, but it has also become a safety concern.

“We’re trying to reach out to make sure people are talking about this and saying, ‘Look, this is just not a fun thing to do, but it’s a dangerous thing to do,'” Ellis said.

Ellis told News 2 he believes people started stealing road signs long before he took office last September, but they’ve only recently started stealing stop signs.

He said the county is lucky no one has gotten hurt or died from a missing road sign.

Ellis took pictures of some of the street signs crews recovered from creek beds and wooded areas off the roadway.

However, many of the signs have disappeared altogether, so the highway department created dedicated crews that check for and replace stolen signs, daily. People who live in Sumner County are paying the price.

“Right now, we’re very behind on a paving schedule,” Ellis said. “We need to be spending every dime we have on repairing roadways and getting them repaved, and this is something that is costing the taxpayers a lot of money.”

Ellis believes children are responsible for stealing the signs. In addition to educating parents, teachers and youth pastors about the issue, Ellis and the highway department have teamed up with the Sumner County Sheriff’s Department to find and punish the thieves.

Those caught could face a hefty fine, possible probation and a mandated work program.

“Stop what you’re doing and think, I don’t want to alter somebody’s life or their health in any form or fashion, and that’s something that if somebody gets hurt real bad, you’re going to have to live with it for the rest of your life,” Ellis said.

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Ellis is calling on parents to talk to their children about the ramifications of stealing stop signs.

To report a stolen street sign, download the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office app.