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Philadelphia Man Takes Stand Against Illegal 'Bandit Signs'

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Philadelphia man is taking a stand against so-called "bandit signs" that he says are causing blight on the city. More so, the advertising signs are illegal. Eyewitness News reporter Dray Clark has details on what the city is now doing to crack down on the eyesores.

Drive around town and you'll see these cheap and colorful commercial signs offering to buy your home, your junk car, or even drain your pipes. You can usually find the signs on utility poles, trees, and a few fences.

But these so-called "bandit signs" are illegal in Philadelphia.

But Christopher Sawyer of Kensington says he's no longer willing to look away from the illegal eyesore.

"These signs definitely contribute to blight. It's not littering on the ground. It's littering in the sky," said Sawyer.

Sawyer has taken it upon himself to tear the signs down. A YouTube video is from last weekend, when Sawyer spent four and a half hours on a one-mile stretch of his Kensington neighborhood using a scraper to take down nearly 80 signs.

"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 an ordinance on the books telling people not to hang these signs up. But the question is, just how often is that ordinance enforced?

The answer is maybe not much at all. According to a 2007 report from the city controller's office, violators could be fined up to $300 per violation. But the report also notes at that time, the city did not have the personnel nor the equipment to effectively remove the signs.

Eyewitness News has now learned the Streets Department is responsible for enforcing ordinance and they have inspectors on the lookout.

"People are really very annoyed about this. It really devalues the neighborhood and the strip where this occurs," said Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

Meanwhile Sawyer has started tracing phone numbers and tracking down violators on his own using his computer. He turns the information over the city, hoping they'll go after the violators.

"Once business owners get fines in the mail, the problem will recede," predicts Sawyer.

Reported by Dray Clark, CBS 3

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