Georgia Woman Arrested For Removing Illegal Roadside Sign

While two cities in Florida are using robocalls to go after the people who litter their roadsides with illegal “snipe” or “bandit” signs advertising everything from home-flippers to roofers to tax assistance, their neighbors to the north arrested a woman who took the law into her own hands.

The 64-year-old retired clerk tells Macon’s Telegraph newspaper that she’s snatched up around 1,950 such signs since she began her one-person campaign in June.

“I had researched the codes and regulations very carefully. I wanted to make sure I was OK. I wanted to do the right thing,” she explains. “I call it community service work.”

But last month, she was arrested after an advertiser complained that the woman had picked up an A-frame sign for some sort of gold-buying operation that had been placed at the entrance to an out-of-business Food Lion store.

The assistant solicitor-general in the case chose to drop the charges, partly because he couldn’t reach anyone involved with the Food Lion to see if the advertiser had gotten permission, and partly because the way police described the sign’s location means it would have been illegally placed in a right-of-way.

“I don’t think that the taking of a sign from a public area constituted a theft by taking,” he tells the paper.

While the woman no longer faces charges, the arrest has changed the way in which county officials view her crusade.

Previously, she had taken the collected signs to the county for disposal, but now refuses to do so, on advice of the county attorney. Instead, the woman and others have been directed not to collect the signs, but to notify the county’s Engineering Dept or Sheriff and “the County will make every effort to have the signs removed.”

But her lawyer writes that this only means that the signs will remain untouched: “The innumerable signs presently in the right-of-ways of the streets and roads… stand as clear evidence of the Board of Commissioners’ tolerance — if not encouragement — of this illegal advertising practice.”

However, the woman’s County Commissioner can only sing her praises.

“This lady is a hero to me, picking up all this trash at her age, had to go hire a lawyer to make sure she didn’t have to go to jail,” he says. “I’m disappointed in that, because she basically did what I told her to do.”

Illegal signs along Bibb County roadsides land woman in controversy [Macon.com]

Thanks to Lauren for the tip!

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. proliance says:

    As a person who used to climb telephone poles for a living, I’m all for these illegal sign being removed as soon as possible. Now if we could get someone to remove the staples from telephone poles that used to catch on my gloves and pant legs I’d be happy.

  2. Marlin says:

    I just pick them up and put them in my trash.

    i think there was a study that showed the more signs in the area the higher crime was? Something like that. I just don;t wan the area near my house looking like some sh_thole.

  3. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    Stealing/removing someone’s property, even if it’s in an “illegal” location is still against the law. Also, by removing the sign, she totally destroyed any evidence that the sign was in an illegal location, thus ruining her defense.

    • Marlin says:

      “Stealing/removing someone’s property, even if it’s in an “illegal” location is still against the law.”

      Really… prove it.

      • SabreDC says:

        I’ll make you a deal: I’ll go park my car illegally–in a no parking/stopping zone or a handicapped spot or in a bus lane–and you hop in and take it. We’ll see if my illegal parking negates your grand theft auto.

        • Marlin says:

          I did that a lot when I was younger and got paid for it. The cars were on private property, not public FYI.

        • impatientgirl says:

          They’re considered litter, not your personally registered vehicle. This is no where near the same situation.

        • Republicrat says:

          Not really a valid analogy. Signs have no special protection under the law. Automobiles do have special protection under the law. Hence auto theft laws. However, the law allows for you to remove unauthorized cars from your property (towing) and depending on the jurisdiction allows for towing companies to proactively tow cars illegaly parked on the right of away.

          • SabreDC says:

            Actually, all property has special protection under the law, whether it is a $40,000 automobile or a $0.50 pen (i.e. petty theft/larceny). Unless you were deputized by the municipality, you have zero law enforcement authority. Just because someone’s property is illegally placed doesn’t give another person the right to take it. Look at the Georgia statute:

            “A person commits the offense of theft by taking when he unlawfully takes or, being in lawful possession thereof, unlawfully appropriates any property of another with the intention of depriving him of the property, regardless of the manner in which the property is taken or appropriated.”

            Where does it say that it isn’t theft if the owner leaves the item in an illegal location? Key words: “any” property and “regardless of the manner in which the property is taken”.

        • FredKlein says:

          Towing companies will ‘take it’, perfectly legally. And charge you to get it back.

        • Cor Aquilonis says:

          Towing?

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      I imagine this is legally akin to removing litter from a highway median.

      • rugman11 says:

        You’re right, most states consider illegally posted signs to be litter and anybody can remove them.

    • Moweropolis says:

      If that was the case, every private tow company that removes illegally parked cars in a lot would be in jail.

      • KeithIrwin says:

        They would be if there weren’t ordinances which specifically allow for towing. There are, however, such ordinances in pretty well every location. And, when they tow your car, the ordinances don’t give them ownership of it, so they can tow it to a lot for storage and then charge you a tow and storage fee, but they can’t, for instance, just junk it or drive it around themselves. By contrast, this woman was taking the property and throwing it away. Unless the local ordinances allowed for that, then it’s theft.

        • Difdi says:

          It’s not theft to clean up litter, nor is it theft to pick up deliberately-abandoned property.

    • Major Tom Coming Home says:

      In Florida at least if you place your property on the curb, it is fair game and can be removed legally. I see this as being the same situation.

    • Costner says:

      Actually, the laws have dictated otherwise. Signs that are left in illegal places or without the proper permits are considered trash and thus can be disposed of by anyone who cares.

      Of course local ordinances can vary, but in 95+% of the country, these signs can be tossed by anyone. Kudos to this woman for caring – I wish more people did.

    • sagodjur says:

      The Occupy protesters would love it if that argument were actually valid from a legal standpoint.

    • Difdi says:

      By that argument, every litter cleanup crew would be guilty of a criminal conspiracy to commit petty theft, which would elevate the charges to felony level. Simply picking up a candy wrapper off the ground could get you up to three months in prison.

      After all, it belongs to someone, right?

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

        This was an A-frame sign, which isn’t something you just have printed at the local Kinkos. A frames are usually made of wood, not plastic.

        • elangomatt says:

          And why does that matter? Just because something is made out of wood instead of some less durable material doesn’t suddenly make it legal where a cheaper sign is still illegal.

        • Difdi says:

          So if I dump an old TV, a couch and a big pile of branches somewhere, nobody can clean it up because it’s worth more than paper and wire? Trash is trash. Illegal dumping is illegal dumping.

          What you litter doesn’t change the fact of littering.

        • Conformist138 says:

          By your logic, we should let an abandoned Lexus sit by the side of the road longer than a Kia as a courtesy to the more expensive automobile. The public space is supposed to be clear of debris of all kinds, both trash and random equipment people want to leave out.

        • shepd says:

          You’re right. She should have thrown away the sign inside the frame and put the frame up on Kijiji. She can keep whatever she sells it for to pay herself for her good efforts.

          And yes, I’m serious. And that’s totally legal.

        • SuperSnackTime says:

          Its okay just to say you’re wrong after you thought about it a bit more.

    • maxamus2 says:

      Nope, at this point they are considered trash so they can be removed.

    • Dre' says:

      Annnnnd you’re wrong.

      Have a nice day.

    • framitz says:

      An illegally placed sign is TRASH and I’ll take it and throw it away, I don’t care how it’s made, it is TRASH.

    • Rhinoguy says:

      Abandoned property. Trash.

    • matlock expressway says:

      If she was delivering them to the county, she presumably never intended to deprive the owner of property: owners could simply pick up their signs in the same manner they’d have to if a county worker removed them. Would this not make for a passable defense?

    • JonBoy470 says:

      Leaving property not of a protected class (i.e. not automobiles) in a public right of way, not in an appropriate container (trash bin) constitutes littering in most jurisdictions. Litter is considered trash, and in most jurisdictions trash is considered abandoned property. Furthermore, with the exception of weird places like Texas (where one transfers ownership of one’s trash to their trash hauler) abandoned property is considered to be in the public domain. Thus anyone could pick them up.

      The ownership aspect aside, bandit signs are an eyesore, a blight, and do constitute litter from a practical standpoint. I would object to any non-zero expenditure of law enforcement to combat their removal…

      • RvLeshrac says:

        In the State of Georgia, if you locate abandoned property, you must either a) Immediately notify the sheriff in the county which has jurisdiction (in the case of precious metals/gems, or negotiable securities, you must notify the Department of Revenue) or b) Notify the owner of the property by certified mail, sent to their last known address, no less than three times, and retain the property in a secure location for not less than one full year. By choosing to hold the property, rather than reporting it to the sheriff or DoR, you assume all liability for the property.

  4. James says:

    I do this in my neighborhood when out walking around. Every weekend condo signs and spammy MLM crap gets litttered on my street. And they aren’t picked up-ever.

    My exception is garage sales and real estate open house folks, the latter always collecting their stuff end of day. And lost pets.

    • Portlandia says:

      Even some legitimate business overuse these signs. My townhouse was near a large apartment complex and the apt manager decided they were going to put about 25 of those spike signs up and down the street every 5 feet. It looked really tacky. I looked up the city ordinance and it was in violation, and they were all ultimately removed except one for which they were issued a permit.

      I understand the need to advertise but don’t do it in a way that doesn’t make a neighborhood look cluttered and tacky.

    • cowboyesfan says:

      I put a sticker over one of the numbers in the telephone number.

      Sometimes part of the name as well.

    • Difdi says:

      YMMV. About half the garage sale types around where I live NEVER take down their signs.

  5. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    I could see myself doing this when / if I retire. Except I’ll probably also (legally) carry a firearm while doing it. I don’t imagine some of those “I Buy Houses” people are very pleasant.

  6. kaptainkk says:

    Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
    Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
    Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

  7. polishhillbilly says:

    I use these stupid signs for Garage Sale signs, and targets for the rifle range.

  8. Portlandia says:

    I used to do this in CA all the time. We had one person posting “work from home” numbers all over the place. I would rip them down as I did my daily walk. I would call and leave messages on the 800 number saying as soon as he puts them up I’ll be there to take them down. They stopped after that.

    I’ve also been known to rip down garage sale signs that are still up three days later and dump them on people’s lawns/front porch. That shit bugs me.

    • Major Tom Coming Home says:

      +1 for the garage sale signs. I enjoy yard sales on the weekend and it is annoying as heck chasing signs from last week / last month. Plus if it is in your neighborhood it really gets it looking trashy.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        I think so too. I always take my signs down as soon as my sale is over. Also, because I use the same signs over and over. If I left them I would have to get new ones.

      • frodolives35 says:

        amen

    • sirbo says:

      I agree on the garage sale signs. I have a light pole in the front of my yard that people put signs on (as well as in the grass around it). It’s my yard, and I don’t appreciate having old yard sale signs left up a week after the time says it’s over. I’ve taken a few and left them in the people’s yards, but I mostly just throw them out the next day. Most people in my neighborhood do NOT take their signs down.

  9. Hoss says:

    It’s really a public safety issue, but if an adult wants to risk getting kicked by a roofing contractor or hit by a passing car — hey, go for it

  10. Not Given says:

    Don’t take the sign, just kick it over and spray it with paint so they can’t use it again.

  11. BigDragon says:

    I hate bandit signs. They are all over the place where I live. They advertise everything from blinds and painters to house buying and gold buying. Some of the most annoying are the ones developers put up to advertise their new construction communities. They normally leave these signs behind after construction finishes. In some cases they’ll snarl highway traffic while placing them on the sides of roads by failing to pull over all the way off the road.

    Municipalities need to make it easier for residents to remove these signs. They really should put a bounty on each one collected. I have no problem if they require a digital photo of the sign and its location before removal as well. Signs should be collected by whomever wants the bounty and then the companies printing the signs need to be fined. The complete and total lack of enforcement of signage laws is annoying.

    I do enjoy it when these signs show up too close to the road. My SUV does a really good job of running them over.

    • NHpurple says:

      Love the bounty idea, great idea for those out of work teenagers. The money can come from the fines that the county/town should be charging.

  12. Willow01 says:

    So yea, I’m not going to lie here, I put some of these bandit signs up for home developers on the weekends as a supplemental income. Thing with my company is, you don’t get paid for placing them if you don’t take them down as well. So Friday night I put them up, take them down Sunday night.

    Most of the developers don’t want to see them during the week either here in AZ.

  13. Reading Rainbow says:

    Where was the County Commissioner when she was being arrested?

  14. phil says:

    Years ago, a lumber store chain did this near where I grew up. My father began a similar clean-up effort. I regularly found several in the trunk of his car.
    Bonus: Back then, the signs were made from sheet aluminum material, and very handy for various projects. I learned a lot about tin snips and pop rivets, courtesy of that lumber store’s illegal advertising…

  15. AllanG54 says:

    I guarantee that if you fined the company whose sign it is $25 for each one they would “have no knowledge” of how they got placed or who did it which would in essence give anyone the right to toss them. Worse than bandit signs are politicians who leave their signs up until after new year’s. Especially the ones who lost. They seem to leave them up as revenge for not getting elected.

    • Kitamura says:

      Actually the passed something to that effect where I live, political signs must be removed from public property within 48 hours of the election or they face a $250/sign penalty. You see election signs vanish overnight now.

      • Professor59 says:

        They disappear quickly here, too, except for the losers. The “campaign committee” responsible for them dissolves, and there’s no one to fine.

        • Difdi says:

          Politicians are liable for statements made in their name with their consent. It’s not much of a stretch to extend that to failure to take down signs after the election.

  16. It's So Cold in the D says:

    Ah, you gotta do it the right way. Take a knife and cut out the phone number, rending the sign useless. The people who get paid to put those there only get paid for picking them back up. The others just advertising their own business are out the money they paid for the sign. And those signs are actually relatively expensive.

    • Bob says:

      And the police would STILL arrest her. Apparently whatever the police think determines if you will be arrest and have an arrest record, not what the law says.

  17. vicissitude says:

    First I thought I had: Georgia, surprising she wasn’t tasered, or shot to death. Second thought I had: It’ll come later after everyone forgets…

  18. Michael Belisle says:

    Instead, the woman and others have been directed not to collect the signs, but to notify the county’s Engineering Dept or Sheriff and “the County will make every effort to have the signs removed.”

    If they told her to stop doing something that’s not illegal, is she obligated to listen?

  19. Michael Belisle says:

    There is a difference between taking the signs from private property and taking them from public property. Even if she thinks they didn’t get the banks permission to put up signs, it’s the job. of the bank to remove the signs, no hers.

    Public property, go on ahead.

  20. Bog says:

    In my community, where I worked as a caregiver to a disabled person in a wheelchair, we’d come across (usually sandwich-board) signs that were placed in the sidewalk (partly or fully) or in way that would block the pedestrian path. So my person could pass, I would move the sign in to the shoulder of street off the sidewalk so the wheelchair could pass. That did raise visibility of the sign as to now be a ‚Äútraffic hazard,‚Äù and also angered the bicycle riders‚Ķ The code inspector finally acted.

    At one place we did that for about a week until the store owner from across the street saw us and came out screaming. They had been finally cited for putting the ‚Äúsign in the street.‚Äù Storeowner was very angry and aggressive; my person felt threatened… so we had the sheriff come out. The store owner complained that she hadn‚Äôt put in the street (exactly)‚Ķ The deputies said the for all intent purposes the sidewalks and paths were the same as streets and highways, they are all ‚Äúpublic right-of-ways.‚Äù

    The deputies told us explicitly we could move any of those signs blocking our right-of-way as we needed, and to feel free to call again. They even said it would be great to just remove and/or throw away of those signs. The officers told the storeowner never to put the sign out there again or they could be arrested for ignoring the citation. They were not to block any part of the path, road, right-of-way or any way blocks visibility to traffic or pedestrians.

  21. KeithIrwin says:

    In most places, it’s not legal to take these signs because putting the sign out illegally doesn’t invalidate ownership. However, you can still pull them out of the ground or off of the telephone poles and leave them at that location. There’s nothing illegal about moving them around a bit. So just pull them out of the ground and leave them lying flat. You didn’t take it, but you did lessen its advertising value quite a bit.

    • Patriot says:

      And if you drop a plastic bottle on the side of the road, is it illegal for me to take that for recycling? Trash is trash.

      • KeithIrwin says:

        I’m not sure where you get the idea that a sign is a form of trash. It clearly has value and was set up, not simply dumped. The putting up of these signs is not legally considered littering and people who do it don’t get fined as litterers. Rather, it’s a violation of the sign ordinances. So you can throw around the word trash all you want to, but that doesn’t make it legally correct. If you illegally parked your car in someone’s yard and they had it junked, that wouldn’t be legal whether or not they thought of your car as trash. This is the same principle. Just because it’s posted illegally doesn’t make it legally considered trash. Now, you can disagree with the laws and try to get them changed (and I won’t complain about it), but that’s how it is now.

        • SuperSnackTime says:

          Just stop touching my interpretive art project of “old sofa on roadside” and we’re kosher. I’m hoping to make bank off of this slick marketing effort of mine.

    • jwissick says:

      Trash = trash. there is NO law against picking up trash.

  22. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Set then all ON FIRE!!!

  23. Rhinoguy says:

    I have been known to use a stencil to change the phone number. Like to the local District Attorney.

  24. yankinwaoz says:

    I’ve complained in Tucson to the county roads dept about all those ugly ass signs that pop up every weekend. They claim they will look into it on Monday. But they are gone on Monday.

    So I just go for a walk, pull them out, and throw them away. They are ugly, and illegal. I wish more people would do the same.

  25. dakeypoo says:

    My subdivision had this stupid person walking street sign in front of the house we built. We were told it would be removed once the house was completed. Of course it wasn’t, so I hooked up some rope to my 4Runner and tore that bitch down.

  26. CarlS says:

    Ok, if the county/city has directed her to leave the signs and report them for “official” removeal, then keep records. After a reasonable amount of time (say not more than 7 working days), if the signs have not been removed, file charges against the cognizant officials for collusion with lawbreakers.

  27. vdragonmpc says:

    Heh, yeah funny isnt it. I had a yard sale and the cops were at my house no less than 10 minutes after I placed a sign out on the main road with an arrow pointing to the sale. All the gold/checkcashing/pawn/goingoutofbusinessforrealzies signs have all been on the sides of the road for months.

    I hate them as my son rides his bike and they are everywhere with the metal pieces sticking up after they start to fall apart. We pull all but Realtor signs and chuck them in the nearest can. Pretty much after the episodes with our neighborhood getting hassled with the yard sales everyone got in on it.

    Sad that there are so many of those check./gold./title pawns all over now.

  28. HalOfBorg says:

    When I put up garage sale signs, I always use a nail that was already in the pole, and I take the signs down as soon as sale ends – and I take the nails with me and throw them away.

  29. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    The best thing to do is to make up little signlets that you can place over the original goods/services being offered.

    Leave the original name and contact info – but change the product offering to “hookers & blow” or maybe “snuff films” or something else equally gross.

  30. iesika says:

    In my hometown, as a teenager, I’d go around pulling up the hate signs that were put in the ground near a local family planning center. Those things would sprout like weeds.

    I’ve noticed an ever increasing number of those “we buy gold!” and “we buy houses” type signs. I don’t think anyone minds the occasional lost cat or garage sale sign, but when you’re advertising our business on public (or someone else’s private) property, that’s over the line. The cops should contact the business owners and charge them for littering.

  31. SignSniper says:

    Follow-up. Fiance of Georgia Woman Arrested For Removing Illegal Roadside Sign also arrested. http://macon.com/2012/07/07/2087731/warner-robins-resident-arrested.html#storylink=misearch