Florida Cities Use Robocalls To Fight Illegal Signs

How does one stop people from ugly-ing up the streets with those signs that are illegally posted on the sides of roads or on lamp posts and telephone poles? Two Florida cities think they might have found the solution — hire a robocalling firm to bombard the companies that use these signs to advertise.

In an attempt to make these so-called “snipe” or “bandit” signs from popping up overnight like mushrooms, the cities of Oakland Park and Hollywood have each launched robocalling programs that call the phone numbers listed on the illegal ads.

The cities aren’t just out to annoy the advertisers. The messages left by the robocall informs recipients that the only way to stop the calls is to pay a fine — $75 for the first offense; $150 for the second; $250 for the third.

Oakland Park is just starting the program, but Hollywood has been robocalling advertisers since March and claims to have already seen a 70% reduction in snipe signage.

It costs the city $300 a month to keep the program going, but administrators say it’s worth it compared to the amount of money and manpower that had gone into removing them.

“City employees were going out every week to pick up these signs, squandering city resources that could be better spent on other things,” Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober tells ABC News, “particularly when we have these difficult financial times and we need to stretch dollars as much as we can.”

The mayor says he could also see this tactic being used to combat the companies that spam consumers’ wireless accounts with text message ads.

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  1. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    But but but… I want someone to buy my house in any condition or situation!

  2. hymie! says:

    Wow. Yet another way for my stalker to harass me.

  3. jayphat says:

    Brilliant. I love how it keeps the robocallers in business.

    • Weighted Companion Cube says:

      Yep Robot unemployment has long been an ignored problem in this country.

    • spamtasticus says:

      OMG!!! I am totally putting up a sign in one of those cities. When I get on their robocall list I will record every single call. When I reach 100 calls I will go in and pay the $250 fine and then sue them for the $100,000 they now owe me for the illegal robocalls in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.! Sweet! Off to print signs.

  4. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    Who robo calls the robocallers? It’s really going to suck for the cities when they accidentally robo call an individual’s number that was not on the sign.

    • Lucky225 says:

      Or someone posts a fake sign with a victims # and the city robo calls the victim..

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        I was just thinking that…which reminds me, I lost your phone number – can you give it to me again?

  5. kataisa says:

    Here’s some info about bandit signs.

    For the record, it’s perfectly legal for anybody to take down the signs and put them in the trash where they belong.

    • NickJames says:

      Won’t stop them though. Miami has a huge sign problem and you can see many as 10-15 signs on a highway exit. It gets really bad at times.

      • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

        I never understood the point of all those signs given that 40% of the population here can’t read [English].

      • Rachacha says:

        a better solution to taking down the sign is to deface the sign and remove the phone number. This will hopefully send a message to the people putting up the signs and is more powerful than simply removing the signs. Now if we could only do something about political candidates.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          No, a better solution is to leave the phone number as is – and change the service being advertised to hookers & blow.

      • joako says:

        There was a war with the computer repair. It was $50 computer repair for a while, then $35 computer repair…. it got to the point that I saw “FREE COMPUTER REPAIR” signs.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      But it isn’t legal to take them down if they were posted legally. Might want to watch out before someone listens to you and gets jailed for destruction of private property.

    • who? says:

      Which is how my neighborhood got rid of the signs. As a group, we just started taking them down and throwing them away as soon as they went up. After about three weeks, the only new signs were high up enough on the phone poles that someone would have to get a ladder to take them down. Which means that they needed a ladder to put them up. At that point, the city got into the game and started helping us out with the “ladder” signs. Problem solved.

      It took a group of neighbors that cared enough to do something, instead of thinking it’s someone else’s problem, though.

    • varro says:

      I used to go around with my “smashin’ pole” knocking them off the utility poles, or slicing off the last four digits of the phone number on the low-hanging signs.

  6. John says:

    First thing I thought of is putting up signs with the phone numbers of people I don’t like!

    • Malik says:

      You beat me to it. That is the first thing I thought of too. It would also be a good way to hurt your competitor’s business.

      We can’t just assume that the business advertised is the one responsible for putting up the signs

    • TheUncleBob says:

      This.

      I could see one of these “business owners” putting up some signs with the phone numbers to, say, City Hall on them. :D

  7. Tombo says:

    Because that’s what’s wrong with Florida. See we’re now not a laughingstock, right?

  8. PhiTauBill says:

    Love this concept.

  9. kella says:

    Brilliant! I hope this costs the sign spammers a bunch of cash to deal with mess of calls.

  10. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    dam I want some signs now advertising the awesome services of my local government.

  11. skwigger says:

    Oddly enough, another Florida city (Orlando) should adopt this yesterday.

  12. skwigger says:

    Oddly enough, another Florida city (Orlando) should adopt this yesterday.

  13. daynight says:

    Would it be appropriate to put out signs protesting this policy that includes a number to complaint to. The number of the politician heading up this rule would be a good choice for a number.

  14. Jawaka says:

    So why can’t the city just get the contact information of the people who registered these phone numbers and just sue them? I’m sure they can just call the numbers and trace the calls as well.

  15. Jawaka says:

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper for these marketers to just go out and steal other people’s signs and just cover them with a new ad? I mean, if its legal for anyone to remove them they may as well save the cost of the materials.

  16. voogru says:

    Excellent. Now I’ll just make signs with phone numbers of people I don’t like. So in addition to ugly signs, now you get calls from robocallers.

    Let’s make more problems, instead of focusing on real crime. When the city solves all of the real problems, such as crimes and record budget deficits, then they can go after the bullcrap.

  17. Snoofin says:

    I wish they would also force all the politicians to take down their damn election signs the day after an election too or fine them if they dont. Those signs should be a waste of money anyway. If youre going to vote are you going to choose someone just because you saw their name on a sign? I sure as hell wont. People should do research on the candidates they will vote on and make their decision on what they represent and what they are likely to do, not just because they saw their name on a sign.

    • Kitamura says:

      Where I live the city already has a bylaw for that. They have 48 hours to remove their signs from public property after the election finishes. After that it’s a $250 fine per sign. They tend to all vanish overnight now.

    • beachmouse says:

      There’s actually a Florida law that says political candidates have that kind of time frame to remove their signs after an election. It generally has a pretty high compliance rate in my neck of the swamp, though I can remember a lone Katherine Harris for Senate sign that lasted in a local ravine for more than a year after she lost the election.

    • McGuirk says:

      That’s a TERRIBLE idea!! I always (cough, cough) vote for the candidate with either the biggest and/or the MOST signs…he/she with the most signs wins!!!!

      Seriously, signs don’t tell me anything about a candidate, except for the fact that some of the signs have a donkey or an elephant on them….

    • PsiCop says:

      Way back when I used to schlep for local candidates of a particular party, I used to put up lawn signs. And … on the night of the election … I used to drive around pulling up all the ones I’d put up. It doesn’t happen too much, but it annoys the crap out of me when I see a lawn sign up after an electon. Because if I could clean up after myself (or rather, my candidates) then anyone can.

  18. gman863 says:

    If you want signs for a garage sale, snatch up old campaign signs, spray them with Kilz (a $4 can will white out several signs) and write over them with magic marker (that, or print up text on your PC, attach with a glue stick and cover with plastic wrap to prevent rain damage).

    See, recycling IS fun!

  19. gman863 says:

    I think I’ll post a few with “For a Good Time Call Jenny: 867-5309″ just to piss off the city. :)

  20. CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

    $300 a month? huh?
    All you need a computer with a modem.
    There is no way a phone line and electricity costs them $300 a month.

  21. T&J says:

    I love the concept. Now, if they can call dozens of times per minute and bog the systems down,; the companies will not get any of their usual crappy business done. I think the hackers call that a denial of service.

    Perhaps we can all use this concept to call the businesses that advertise on the websites that promise to give yoru a free ipad or smartphone and then require you to subscribe to the advertisements for trade schools and tax preperation firms.

    If we all could get them to waste a15-20 minutes; they will never get any for-profit business done. And then tell them to advertise on non-junk venues. They might get the message.

  22. JonBoy470 says:

    OMFG First World Problem!

    I can’t wait until the city robocalls a number on one of those signs and the number goes to a cell phone. That’s $500 per occurrence, and you can sue in state court…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_Consumer_Protection_Act_of_1991

  23. xrmb says:

    going to make some signs with phone numbers of people I dont like…

  24. MedicallyNeedy says:

    Poor Ron Paul

  25. thomwithanh says:

    I guess Jenny will be getting robocalled…

    Eight-six-seven five-three-oh-nineeeeine

  26. JayDeEm says:

    I like the idea of paying local residents to remove the signs. Something like 50 cents per sign with a bi-weekly collection day where they can be turned in. If people will dumpster-dive for recyclables in my apartment complex, you can bet they would drive around hunting these signs down.

  27. SeattleSeven says:

    How long until we get a news story about some poor old people who has some city in Florida calling them all day and all night about some signs they have nothing to do with?

  28. makoto says:

    I would like to know what they are going to do about the stuff those idiots leave on my car and then it rains and their add is permanently stuck on my brand new cars windows. Are they calling those jerks and letting them know there is a fine?

    I live in Pompano Beach (right outside that area) and I can tell you right now that while it’s cutting down, they aren’t doing enough. If you have to robo-call someone to let them know they are being fined, it’s not enough. You need to take collateral, bring charges, etc. Obviously, I’m pissed…

  29. McGuirk says:

    I always have a few cans of black spray paint in my trunk and LOVE painting over the phone numbers on those signs…Yes, I’m one of those people….

  30. Egregious Philbin says:

    I love it! Some guy used to put up 70+ signs in my neighborhood, usually 4 or more in one spot (highway entrance island, etc.) I would round them up and trash them every week, finally caught the guy doing it, pictures of him, his license plate. He confronted me, said that people love his signs (debt free scam), cops finally made him stop under threat of large fines.

  31. Razor512 says:

    Why spend $300 a month to hire a company to robocall when you can get a dialup model and a PC and write an app to go down a list of numbers.

    At that time, you can also set the systems to call the numbers on the list in an endless loop from 9AM to 5PM 5-7 days a week

    you can even take an older system and load it with like 6-7 dialup modems and call multiple numbers at the same time and then just have it cycle through the list of numbers with the same message all day long.

    and if the warning calls don’t work, then you can have it just call and play justin bieber music and every 10 seconds it plays an additional message that says paying a fee of $250 will make these calls stop

  32. edrebber says:

    Most phone companies allow customers to block specific numbers. Otherwise; it’s cheaper to get a new phone number than pay the fine. Phone numbers get recycled. Someone else will be assigned this number that has nothing to do with the sign.

  33. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Those signs, robocalls, etc. Sounds like politicians.

    They wrote an exemption into the robocall laws which allow political calls. Election year. Expect dozens of political robocalls and hundreds of political surveys. Gag!

    I’ve always dreamed of getting a bunch of stickers from a radio station and putting them over the phone numbers on those signs.

  34. SlyPhox says:

    Before I moved, a jewelry store opened up and littered this long stretch of road with 30-40 signs on each side of the road spelling their message out. It was pretty damn ridiculous so I did what any reasonable person would do and picked them all up and left them on the doorstep with a note saying how I figured that they lost them and that I hoped they weren’t too worried.

    Only took about 3 more times of doing this before they gave up.