Theft of Amish signs creates danger

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press An Amish alert sign on County Road 426 in Escanaba Township is shown recently. A total of four Amish alert signs were stolen off county roads in Delta County in September.

ESCANABA TOWNSHIP — This summer Amish families moved into the Delta County area, and Amish alert signs were put up to caution other motorists using the roads to keep an eye out for the Amish in their horse-drawn buggies. Since the signs were placed, a total of four Amish alert signs have been stolen off county roads in the month of September.

“You know, it’s pretty disturbing to have those signs taken,” Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald said.

The signs are located on county roads in the Escanaba Township and Cornell Township area.

The first two signs stolen were reported to the sheriff’s office on Sept. 9 and then two more were reported stolen on Sept. 21. As the signs are secured onto posts, both the signs and posts are being ripped out of 3-feet deep concrete.

Oswald expressed concern over the necessity of the signs, the need for more signs in the area and how it takes time to replace signs that are stolen.

With Amish alert signs being taken and very few remaining, Oswald said it’s concerning — especially with hunting season and more people who are not familiar with the area using the roads.

“I really don’t want to see anybody injured,” he said. “I don’t want to see anyone of the Amish community injured over signs being taken.”

Amish alert signs are important because they signal to motorists to be aware Amish may occupy the shoulder of the road in horse-drawn buggies.

When motorists come upon a horse-drawn buggy on roads, Oswald said they should pass slowly and safely.

He added if a motorist comes upon a buggy traveling on the shoulder of the road on the other-side and another vehicle is in that lane of traffic, they should provide enough space for the vehicle closer to the buggy to move around the buggy safely, as well.

According to Oswald, when accidents involving Amish buggies occur, they’re more than likely serious accidents.

Just this summer, there were two fatal motor vehicle-buggy crashes in Michigan that claimed multiple lives.

One crashed occurred in June in Branch County, where three young siblings died after a pickup truck struck a buggy carrying seven members of a family.

The more recent case of a fatal crash occurred within the time the signs here in Delta County were being stolen.

On Sept. 18, four Amish siblings were in a buggy traveling home from an Amish school in Eaton County when a vehicle struck them from behind. The four children were ages 6 to 13. Three died, and the six-year-old was critically injured.

“Our cars are made to keep us safe with airbags and other safety devices — when you’re riding in a wooden buggy, there’s not much there. Just wood between you and the vehicle striking you from the backside,” said Oswald, adding most buggies are struck from behind in car-buggy accidents.

Oswald said because of the dangers, the Delta County Amish community asked for more signs to be put up. Now the majority of the signs the county had are gone.

“The other thing I was quite concerned about is the message we’re sending our neighbors — the Amish community who’s now a part of our community,” Oswald said. “What kind of message are we sending by taking the signs down warning drivers of them?”

Replacing the Amish alert signs is not an easy task. The signs aren’t common, so the Delta County Road Commission needs to special order more.

“These are specialty signs,” Oswald said. “I know there’s Amish communities all over the United States, but it’s not like a stop sign — they make these signs as you order them because they don’t keep them on stock. So, it takes some time to get an Amish sign and talking with the road commission, we’re very concerned and looking around trying to find the signs.”

Oswald said because the signs take long to replace, they’re hoping the people who have taken the signs will return them.

“Please just return the signs or find somewhere we can get them because then we can put them back up and we can camera them,” he said.

To deter future theft, the sites of the signs will now have cameras, Oswald said.

The Delta County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public if they have any information on the Amish signs to send a message to its Facebook page or call the office anonymously at 906-786-3634.


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