It’s a crime almost as ordinary as speeding, only harder to ticket. In highly populated areas with little regulation, businesses looking for cheap advertising post signs at intersections and high traffic areas offering “fast cash” for homes and low-cost contract work.
Now, as home flippers, contractors, and roofing companies strive to capitalize on victims of Hurricane Harvey, more signs than ever are popping up in communities across the county.
In Precinct 4, Bill Lee, superintendent of Precinct 4’s Road & Bridge Department, said his crews remove the bulk of the signs during routine road maintenance. At least once a month, crews dedicate a day to removing the signs.
Usually, they are back in place a few days later.
“If we don’t take them down, they’ll most likely stay there,” said Lee. “Businesses almost never retrieve them.”
Known as bandit signs, they can be printed professionally or handwritten on cardboard. Some offenders even scribble their own information in Sharpie on the back of another sign. One business owner even admitted to posting 80 per week.
“These signs are extremely cheap to make, so businesses keep putting up new ones,” said Lee.
Freddie Jebousek, road and bridge superintendent for northwest Harris County, says he’s been helping remove bandit signs for 28 years.
“Most of the larger companies have stopped posting bandit signs because they spend more on their signs, and it gets expensive when we keep removing them,” he said. “Now we’re having to deal with dozens of smaller businesses who usually spend less than $2 per sign.”
Not only do these signs litter the community, but the businesses who post them generally lack credibility. Many signs only list a phone number and service, making it difficult for residents to do their due diligence. The problem is compounded after natural disasters when scammers are more prevalent.
So, what should residents do if they spot a bandit sign?
To help reduce repeat offenders, Precinct 4 is encouraging residents to report offending businesses to the Harris County Attorney’s Office at 713-755-5101. Businesses who fail to remove their sign must pay a per diem fee. Interested residents can also inquire about a bandit sign removal program with the County Attorney's Office, which trains citizens to remove bandit signs.
If the sign still hasn’t been removed, residents can contact Harris County Precinct 4’s Community Assistance Department at 281-353-8424 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on Precinct 4’s Community Assistance Department, visit http://www.hcp4.net/assistance/cad.
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