The Bandit Sign Vigilante

One man has had enough and won’t take it anymore. He’s going to take cleaning up Philly into his own hands, one “We buy houses!” and “Get paid daily from home!” sign at a time.

The commercial signs are illegal, and, Christopher Sawyer says, an eyesore. “It is littering, but it’s not littering on the ground,” he told CBS Philly. “It’s littering up in the sky.” There are numerous videos on YouTube of marketers talking about how to use bandit signs, including tips on avoiding fines on signs they know are illegal.

Sawyer has posted his own video on YouTube of himself going around ripping down 80 different signs in just a single one-mile strip of road over the course of four and half hours. His favorite tool for tearing the signs down is a sidewalk ice scraper.

The Kensington neighborhood he lives in is known for crime and violence. According to some social scientists, litter and vandalism that goes uncleaned increases local crime levels. The idea is known as “Broken Window Theory” and was first advanced in a 1982 article in The Atlantic.

“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 a law on the books prohibiting the signs, but lacks the manpower to enforce it.

Sawyer says he’s begun tracing back the phone numbers on the signs to the owners and reporting the information to the city in the hopes that they’ll crack down on the scofflaws.

“Once business owners get fines in the mail,” he said. “The problem will recede.”

Philadelphia Man Takes Stand Against Illegal ‘Bandit Signs’ [CBS Philly]