Shoes on power lines likely not gang signs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 22, 2003

With more than a dozen pairs of tennis shoes dangling from the power lines overhead,

the corner of Fourth and Ashtabula streets gave new meaning

to the idea of finding shoes online.

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If you believe the urban legends reported by media outlets such as the Los Angeles Daily News and WCPO TV in Cincinnati, then shoes dangling over power lines marks the boundaries of gang territory, are to honor fallen gang members, or signify that illegal drugs are sold nearby.

However, this is probably not the case here in Ironton, Police Chief Bill Garland said.

"As far as I know, we do not have any official gangs in the city of Ironton,"

Garland said. "And any people dealing drugs in this town do not want to advertise in that manner."

The chief said he would probably just attribute the shoes to local children playing pranks.

"Once again, it is just the neighborhood kids playing around," he said. "The playground near there draws a lot of kids from all over the city."

Mike Pemberton, Ironton's street superintendent, and other city employees removed 23 shoes and one toy from the line Monday afternoon.

Although the shoes were hanging on a telephone line, not a power line, Pemberton said they dangled across the city's right of way and it was probably best to just go ahead and remove them because they are safety hazard and may distract people.

No one called to complain, but Pemberton said he had seen them on his way to work and had been meaning to get them down even before noticing that the collection had grown significantly.

"I wonder what they are wearing in that neighborhood," he joked. "If there is that many (shoes) on the lines, they can't have that many pairs left."

Although it may sound humorous, representatives from American Electric Power said that anything to do with power lines is no laughing matter.

"It is actually very serious," said AEP spokesperson Vikki Michalski. "It creates a hazardous situation because power lines are dangerous. If items are heavy enough, it can snap the line and people could be electrocuted."

It is important for children and adults alike to understand they should not try to get anything down from the lines and should report anything hanging from them to local telephone, electric and cable companies, she said.

"Most people cannot tell the difference between the lines," she said. "That is why you should never go near any down line and always assume it is an energized power line."