NEW PORT RICHEY — A 36-year-old unemployed man was arrested Wednesday after deputies found a stash of stop signs, street signs, speed limit signs and traffic barricades in his backyard, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
Matthew J. Cook of 4538 Cottonwood Drive is charged with two counts of grand theft of a stop sign and one count of petty theft.
A report says a deputy was dispatched Wednesday to the area of Cottonwood Drive and Horsey Avenue, south of Trouble Creek Road and west of U.S. 19, after a stop sign was reported as missing.
Cook admitted to the thefts, the report states, and planned to sell the metal signs.
"I'm broke, don't have a job and figured I could take the signs for scrap," he told authorities.
Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said Cook took one stop sign and three safety barricades from Grand Boulevard and two stop signs and two speed limit signs from his own street, Cottonwood Drive. The thefts happened late Tuesday night. Doll said people called the Sheriff's Office about the missing signs.
Doll said no one was injured "but the potential is there." He called the thefts "extremely foolhardy." Residents "have been killed before when people remove traffic signs," Doll said.
Cook remained at the Land O'Lakes jail Thursday in lieu of $15,000 bail. Doll said the stop signs have been replaced.