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Philadelphia Man Takes Stand Against Illegal ‘Bandit Signs’

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia man is taking a stand against so-called “bandit signs” that he says are causing blight on the city. More so, the advertising signs are illegal. Eyewitness News reporter Dray Clark has details on what the city is now doing to crack down on the eyesores.

Drive around town and you’ll see these cheap and colorful commercial signs offering to buy your home, your junk car, or even drain your pipes. You can usually find the signs on utility poles, trees, and a few fences.

But these so-called “bandit signs” are illegal in Philadelphia.

But Christopher Sawyer of Kensington says he’s no longer willing to look away from the illegal eyesore.

“These signs definitely contribute to blight. It’s not littering on the ground. It’s littering in the sky,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer has taken it upon himself to tear the signs down. A YouTube video is from last weekend, when Sawyer spent four and a half hours on a one-mile stretch of his Kensington neighborhood using a scraper to take down nearly 80 signs.

“When you strip away a whole commercial street of these things people will notice there’s less clutter around here,” Sawyer said.

The city does have an ordinance on the books telling people not to hang these signs up. But the question is, just how often is that ordinance enforced?

The answer is maybe not much at all. According to a 2007 report from the city controller’s office, violators could be fined up to $300 per violation. But the report also notes at that time, the city did not have the personnel nor the equipment to effectively remove the signs.

Eyewitness News has now learned the Streets Department is responsible for enforcing ordinance and they have inspectors on the lookout.

“People are really very annoyed about this. It really devalues the neighborhood and the strip where this occurs,” said Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

Meanwhile Sawyer has started tracing phone numbers and tracking down violators on his own using his computer. He turns the information over the city, hoping they’ll go after the violators.

“Once business owners get fines in the mail, the problem will recede,” predicts Sawyer.

Reported by Dray Clark, CBS 3

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  • JOhn

    I guess a city under siege with animals killing people day in and day out should pay more attn to these stupid signs ??? IDIOT

  • malasangre

    some were just born to make trouble. couldnt make it as a cop i guess

  • bob

    Wow. People are literally shooting each other in the streets of Kensington and this clown is worried about signs on telephone poles? Yeah, great job buddy.

    • Kenzoriffic

      Bob: Care to pontificate on your Great Wisdom how to stop people from shooting each other in Kensington?

  • Daniel

    I agree the law should be changed so that non-commercial signs and moving/yard sale signs can be put up, with contact information so the signs can be traced back. All others should be subject to the fines. Maybe if neighbors would take it upon themselves to take the more commercial signs down, write the location of where the sign was found and the date it was removed and drop them off or send them to the streets department. This way it would not cost the city anything so they can not use it as an excuse. It would be simple enough to issue the fines, just call the number on the flier and make an appointment. Once word gets out the city is doing this with the help of citizens and maybe threatening people with the loss of their professional license if the fines aren’t paid or more signs are found then maybe the signs will start to disappear.

  • Bandit Sign Finder


    Keep up the good work. I felt great getting that guy fired from Hanna Reality.

  • sammysamples

    I’m for keeping up the lost pet , yard sale, or temporary community event signs. I totally agree with Sawyer about the other signs. Would also like to see them put an end to “Politician Signs”. They’re up there for months and months before and after the elections. True eyesores.

  • Brian

    Hey Nutter, here is way to make some money for your city. $300 a pop. That would help?!

  • frankdatank

    this guy is a pompous ass, w/ nothing better to do. his smuggy-ness is outrageous. i saw him the other day, farting in a plastic bag and sniffing it to get high.

  • Christopher Sawyer

    I would love it if we could do several things with Phila Code 10-1200 (1) Raise the fines to $500 per sign (2) Neighborhood residents can erect temporary signs for a limited period of time for a non-commercial purpose beyond yard/junk sales, but they must include their NAME and ADDRESS and PHONE on the actual sign so the neighborhood knows who to call to ask to have old signs taken down or to let residents know their signs are being removed.

    As the law stands now, even lost dog/cat signs are not permitted. I agree with you Kay, this law needs to be updated. However we do not need to be bombarded with ILL BUY YOUR UGLY HOUSE from the moment we step out of our doors in the morning, to when we go to work/school, to when we come back home at night. The plastic corrugated signs are the worst; they do not biodegrade and they get knocked down in heavy windstorms and fly all over creation. A lot of the schemes advertised on bandit signs are very dicey. Most of the “MAKE MONEY AT HOME DAILY!!!” signs are for unlicensed debt collectors looking for phone agents: as in: you get paid a tiny commission to harass people for their money using your own phone, illegally.

    Someone has to clean up this litter, and I’m not getting paid for it, and there’s only a few people at the City cleaning it up. I want to help the word “Filthadelphia” fade away into a long forgotten memory. Like short dumping and the ugly non-artistic graffiti tags, if nobody cleans it up: who will? Cleaning up Philadelphia starts with ourselves, and we have to start somewhere.

  • LG

    It’s one thing to put up “lost pet” or yard sale signs as long as they’re taken down after the event, but commercial signs should be fined & kept down.

  • kay

    Sometimes these signs are helpful in finding lost pets and other positive things. If there is no money to be made, I say let them hang the signs.

    • Spanky D

      Hello, Macfly?? Did you even read two words in the article?? Nobody is talking about lost pet signs being taken down.

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