Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson recently told a courtroom filled with college students during a recent Oxford Board of Aldermen meeting that the city has been experiencing an increase in street sign thefts. He suspects students may be to blame for the petit larceny, and he wants it to stop.
According to the 2014 version of the Mississippi Code, anyone who steals or carries away the personal property of another valued at under $1,000 may be found guilty of petit larceny, imprisoned in the county jail for up to six months, and fined up to $1,000, or both.
Offenders could receive a suspended sentence, one year probation and/or a $1,000 fine.
Any person convicted of a third offense where the value of the property is under $500 could be imprisoned in the penitentiary for up to three years, fined up to $1,000, or both.
The penalties can be higher if someone steals property from a church, synagogue, temple or other established place of worship, and there are also laws in place for gas theft.
Patterson has been mayor of Oxford for the past eight years, and he served on the Oxford Board of Aldermen for eight years before running for mayor. He is a sixth-generation Oxford native.
Patterson said there have been dozens of street and stop signs stolen around Oxford. “There has always been this problem in Oxford a little bit, but it seems to be worse now,” he said.
Patterson said he hopes educating the public about the issue and the repercussions will lessen the impact. He said he had been in contact with the Oxford police chief about the issue.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Oxford reported 417 counts of larceny-theft charges as of 2015. The state of Mississippi reported a decrease of larceny-theft charges overall at the end of 2015.
Jeff McCutchen has been an Oxford police officer for the past three years. He is part of OPD investigations and is the media officer for Oxford.
McCutchen said he has not noticed an increase of stolen street signs around Oxford. He said it would normally be reported to the Public Works Department.
“Normally, the reports coming to us are from people noticing their signs being stolen from their neighborhood,” McCutchen said. “Whenever there is street signs stolen, it typically is by the younger crowd,” McCutchen said.
According to the University of Mississippi Police Department duty log, there have been 60 cases of vandalism and 50 cases of larceny on campus reported since the beginning of fall 2016.
Vandalism reports on campus are mostly related to damage to residence halls. However, campus theft reports have been outside of residence halls.
In the fall of 2016, an incident was reported in which a student’s car mufflers were allegedly stolen while her car was parked on campus. The area was mostly limited to students parked in Residential East parking.
Holly Hicks, from Residence Hall 1, said she was one of the students affected by this theft. “I parked my car there overnight, and the next morning, my car sounded horrible while I was driving it, and I realized something was wrong.”
Kendall Alford is lieutenant if administrative services and is currently an investigator for the University of Mississippi Police Department. He has worked for UPD for the past 9 years.
Alford said petit larceny and vandalism is a common occurrence on the Ole Miss campus. However, it mostly stays consistent throughout the year. Alford said items stolen on campus are mostly crimes of opportunity, such as belongings being left out unattended.
“Students mostly steal the speed limit signs because of their significance of the speed.” Alford said.