New strategies to curb illegal signage proved effective last week, when the City of Philadelphia realized that its greatest strength was the ability to annoy. This past week, David Perri, the new Streets Commissioner sent robocalls to phone numbers associated with "bandit signs," illegal signs that clutter numerous neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia, every fifteen minutes.
This technique may have been pioneered by Chris Sawyer, anti-blight activist and author of Philadelinquency. Sawyer, who maintains a website dedicated to the elimination of bandit signs, banditproject.org, notes that it can be impossible to trace the identity of sign-posters, since the signs are usually attached to disposable phones. The solution, then, is to pay the frustration forward.
He's figured out how to sign up the bandit numbers to receive text alerts all day long from traffic, news and weather services. He's also had fun listing the numbers on phony international Craigslist ads where he pretends to offer a great Manhattan apartment to rent.
Though these tactics may not seem appropriate for a department of the city, they are effective. Less than 24 hours after being signed up for robo-calls, the entrepreneurs behind the Junk Cars signs called the Streets Commisioner to say that they were taking down the signs. Perri's current focus is getting rid of illegal advertising benches that dot the city, by charging a $75 fine for every day they stay standing.
· 'Bandit signs' bloom like city flowers in spring [Philly.com]