An article was published yesterday by Forum News Service’s April Baumgarten that detailed the issue of signs being shot up across the counties of North Dakota. It’s nearly a century-old problem. As North Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program (NDLTAP) Director Dale Heglund told North Dakota Outdoors Editor Ron Wilson, people have been damaging signs since the network of roads was being built.
As you might imagine, some counties are worse than others. Which makes sense. Let’s not forget that it takes less than a handful of idiots, who get their kicks off vandalism, to cause a lot of damage— at the expense of taxpayers.
Take Cass County for example. According to Sign Foreman Roger Parrow, they’ve replaced $15,000 worth of signs this year alone. But that’s not even close to the worst year they’ve had. Replacing damaged signs has cost Cass County as much as $40,000 in the past. At $100 to $150 each, that’s a lot of signs.
As you can see in Baumgarten’s article, NDLTAP staff and North Dakota State University partnered up a few years back to start what they call “Sign Warror”— an initiative “aimed at educating residents about the dangers of shooting at signs and discouraging the behavior.” Kids are central to the effort. As a result, the North Dakota Game & Fish Department has also made this a focus of their Hunter Education Program. There’s even a Sign Warrior Calendar made by fourth graders.
Aside from the money aspect of the vandalism done to these signs, there’s also the issue of safety. Not only does damaging them leave the potential for their not performing the function they were put there for, but the fact that people are shooting at them presents its own set of dangers.
But do the perpetrators even care much about all of that? The answer appears to be an obvious “No”. Which makes me wonder just how effective Sign Warrior will be in the long run.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems to me that we’re probably dealing with impulsive individuals, who likely don’t score too well on the IQ Scale. For some reason, these folks get a thrill out of damaging things that don’t belong to them. Not to mention the fact that alcohol is sometimes involved in cases of vandalism.
Yet, NDLTAP Director Dale Heglund is more optimistic. He thinks the offenders just don’t realize the potential hazards created by their actions:
“They don’t realize that when a sign is shot, motorists don’t get that bounce-back of light needed at night to read a sign correctly and get the message it’s trying to deliver.”
Maybe he’s right. If so, then raising awareness by educating the public should have a positive impact over the course of time. But I must admit— I’m a skeptic.
What do you think? Can an educational initiative like Sign Warrior have a measurable difference in reducing the amount of signs that are vandalized in North Dakota?
Note: You can see the video below about the partnership between Sign Warrior and the North Dakota Game & Fish Department:
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