Somewhere near the intersection of capitalism and vandalism, someone got the idea that plastering cheap signs on other people's property was a brilliant way to get new customers.
The idea caught on so well that these so-called bandit signs have become an unwelcome fixture virtually everywhere, stapled to trees and utility polls or stuck on roadway medians or shoulders. Some folks call that guerrilla marketing. We call it litter.
Vineland Mayor Ruben Bermudez agrees. As part of his campaign to clean up and beautify the city, Bermudez is declaring war on bandit signs. We wish him success.
Aside from being eyesores - Bermudez calls them "visual graffiti" - the signs are a distraction to motorists. Many of the signs ultimately end up as trash, clogging gutters and storm drains.
They are also illegal. Vineland's sign ordinance already includes penalties of up to $2,000 per sign per day or 90 days of community service or jail time for people who post them. Bermudez plans to have city inspectors begin to vigorously enforce that law. He sees it as a natural extension of ongoing efforts to clean up neglected properties in the city. The idea is to make Vineland more attractive to business owners who may be considering locating there and to help improve the quality of life for residents.
The mayor said inspectors won't be targeting temporary signs that a business puts up on its own property.
Vineland isn't the only place trying to combat the bandit-sign nuisance, and its sign law doesn't go as far as some. In some places, laws authorize any citizen to take down and discard a bandit sign. Vineland officials aren't encouraging that, but they do hope residents will help by reporting the location of bandit signs. Philadelphia relies, in part, on public shaming. It uses a website to identify the worst offenders.
These efforts recognize that if the signs are ignored, they tend to multiply, in the same way that a small pile of trash seems to attract more until a vacant lot can become a favored site for illegal dumping. That's why efforts to control bandit signs - which may seem like a small thing - can pay off. Getting a handle on these signs before they get any more out of control is a good idea - for every town.