UNION COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Stolen road signs are creating problems for first responders in the Upstate.

When emergency responders are going to a call, the Union County Sheriff’s Office said they rely on the street signs to get there. When they’re gone, it only adds more steps for deputies, EMS and fire.

“You rely on those street signs or address markers,” said Captain Scott Coffer.

Captain Scott Coffer said an increase in stolen signs is impacting everyone.

“That is a problem, and we have a lot of people within the sheriff’s office, EMS county wide that are not originally from Union that rely on those signs to get where they’re going in an emergency,” he said.

He said the sign thefts have been on the rise in recent weeks.

“Every second counts, so by these signs being stolen it makes the officers, or the first responders, have to go to an extra length to get where they’re going,” said Captain Coffer.

A lot of the first responders are asking dispatch for help with directions.

“Just listening to the radio, you’ll hear first responders ask for a few more details,” stated the Captain.

Director of Public Works Russell Snider said in the past few weeks around 30 signs have been snatched.

“These weren’t random. They went down streets and pretty much got every sign,” said Snider.

Captain Coffer said it’s mostly in the southeastern part of the county.

“Neal Shoals Road, South Carolina 215 and Highway 176, and Tinker Creek Road are the hardest hit areas,” he said.

The county then has to order new signs and reinstall them which can take up to around three weeks.

“A lot of our missing signs are reported through 911, the rest of them are done by residents,” said Snider. “We do occasionally notice them when we’re out, and we’ll run down and get them replaced.”

The sheriff’s office is trying to be proactive in preventing any more thefts.

“We have started extra patrols in this area, time allowing,” said Captain Coffer.

Even with GPS, these emergency workers end up just seeing a bare pole when turning down the street.

“Even if they start going in this general area where this location may be where somebody needs help, they’re looking for that road sign to turn down off of a main highway,” said Captain Coffer. “That’s why it’s critical.”

Stealing a sign can take only a matter of seconds and Captain Coffer is asking everyone to keep an eye out for any suspicious cars near street signs or intersections. If you see any, call the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

Captain Coffer said people who steal street signs can face $200 fines and up to 30 days in jail, per sign.