Evan M. Lopez
Sick of the illegal signage cluttering Philly streets, Christopher Sawyer just launched BanditProject.org to track so-called bandit signs.
City Paper: Why launch this site?
Christopher Sawyer: If we take a sign down, it goes right back up. So we said, how do you prod the city to actually do something? ... Last year, enforcement responsibility got put under the [Streets Department's] Right-of-Way Unit. Which means that, in hundreds of miles of streets, there's only two guys in the city responsible for taking these things down. When we heard that, we ... thought, the city just doesn't care.
CP: What damage are the signs really doing?
CS: They're mostly, "We'll buy your crappy house or junk cars." ... It lowers your perception of the neighborhood. Who they prey on is mostly people who are about to enter bankruptcy, they've lost their jobs, or seniors dealing with the price of prescriptions.
CP: Made any progress?
CS: We have a band of about seven volunteers taking signs down. ... When a sign disappears off a telephone pole it's a resident or neighbor who took it down; it wasn't the city. And chances are good that the individual who put the sign up has never been fined. This is a part of the city code that gets violated every second. The city could collect millions of dollars in fines, but there's no one there to enforce it.