"Bandit signs” have been a problem throughout Texas. The “bandit” signs appear illegally on street poles advertising to repair credit, sell your house, stop a foreclosure, et al. The terms “bandit sign,” “snipe sign,” “vertical litter,” “street spam” and “stuff on a stick” (SOS) have all appeared in the 1990s.
In 1997, a North Texas-based group called Citizens Against Ugly Street Spam (CAUSS) was formed to combat the illegal signage. A “sign shark” is comeone who removes or “takes a bite” out of an illegal sign. CAUSS now promotes its anti-street spam cause nationwide. “Flyposting” (below) is a British term for this illegal advertising.
Flyposting is the act of placing advertising posters or flyers in illegal places. In the U.S., these posters are known as bandit signs, snipe signs, or street spam.
In most areas, it is illegal to place such posters on private property without the consent of the property owner or on public property without a sign permit from the local government. In contrast, some areas have public bulletin boards where notices may be posted.
History of CAUSS (Citizens Against Ugly Street Spam)
Citizens Against Ugly Street Spam (CAUSS) began in North Texas in 1997. The idea came about when local code enforcement offices throughout the area became overwhelmed with street spam (bandit signs) that were tie wrapped to median directional signs or nailed to utility poles. The web site of http://www.causs.org was started a short time later to act as a means of communication between the area’s sharks (individuals who remove illegal signs). This communication was vital in the early stages of CAUSS due to the limited number of participants. Our goal in the beginning was to eliminate these signs in twenty-four hours. Our goal now is to ensure the signs never see the light of day.
CAUSS, like any other organization, was slow at first to catch on. However, travel requirements allowed several members to spread the word throughout the country and among friends with similar interests and concerns. A news article published in the Northwest MetroCrest News, now part of The Dallas (TX) Morning News, in the summer of 1999 jump-started the movement in North Texas. A Public Awareness Event in January, 2000 held at one of the busiest intersections in North Dallas (TX) led to an even greater degree of exposure. Additional TV coverage helped make the public aware of the movement. There are numerous articles about the efforts of CAUSS across the nation in the CAUSS in the News section of the web site.
Q: What is Street Spam?
A: Street Spam is the term for illegal signs along roadways, at intersections, on traffic signs or utility poles, and even on private property. Illegal street signs are also called vertical litter, bandit signs, snipe signs, utility pole advertising and stuff on a stick (SOS). The signs may advertise local businesses, multilevel marketing schemes selling weight loss products, health insurance, sample sales, landscaping services and even pet waste removal services. Some of the most common spam signs have the come-on Work at Home, Work From Home, I Lost 30 Pounds in 30 Days, Have a PC, We Buy Houses, Affordable Health Insurance, Budget Health Plans, and Going Out of Business.
Q: Is taking down street spam legal? Are we breaking any laws?
A: Street spam is no different than the any other litter you see strewn along the streets. As a citizen of your community you have every right to pick up trash from the roadside, the right of way or on traffic signs or utility poles. Once the spammer nails that sign to the pole or sticks it in the ground it is classified as abandoned trash and can be removed by anyone who cares enough about the community to do so.
Q: Are These Signs Legal?
A: NO, In most locations ordinances prohibit or restrict the placing of signs in the public right of way that includes the roadway and adjacent land. Similarly, signs are prohibited on traffic signs and utility poles.
Q: What Is A Sign Shark?
A: A “sign shark” is anyone who is concerned enough to remove street spam. The term originated from taking a “bite” out of the sign, or cutting out the contact information.
High Beam Research
Small builders, big ideas; you don’t need a big budget to market creatively.
Date: March 1, 1994
Author: Catalano, Joe
Each month the Company spends $300 putting up bandit signs at a cost of $6 apiece for its projects along roads leading to the competitions’ ...
19 March 1997, San Antonio (TX) Express-News, “Most area homebuilders agree to truce on signs” by Daniel J. Vargas, Northeast, pg. 1:
After two years of sparring over directional signs, homebuilders and neighborhood groups recently approved a “gentlemen’s agreement’’ that governs when and how builders can place signs along roadsides.
Representatives of both sides say they hope the agreement will be the basis for a new city ordinance governing the advertisements, which are called “bandit signs’’ by residents who object to them.
29 November 1997, Florida Times Union (Jacksonville, FL), pg. 1:
Billboards and “bandit signs” may be things of the past along Clay County highways.
The so-called bandit signs, which include advertisements for small businesses and the sale of homes, already are prohibited on federal and state roads.
Google Groups: houston.wanted
From: “HP Authorized Customer” <@hypercon.com>
Subject: INVESTOR NEEDED
THRIVING BUSINESS GROWING TOO FAST. NEED PARTNER INVESTMENT. IN NW HOUSTON. yes. home of the $4.96 bandit sign
The Old Oversell
By Dana Blankenhorn
02/18/99 12:00 AM PT
In your e-mail client it’s spam, and on the street it’s those plastic signs people nail-gun to telephone poles, which I call “street spam.”
Google Groups: nyc.general
From: (John Higgins)
Subject: What is “phone block escort service”?
I’ve seen some snipe signs and grafitt around Times Square bearing the words “phone block escort service”. That’s it, no phone numbers, names, or anything else. What on earth does it mean????
Google Groups: dfw.general
From: Hank Mishkoff
Subject: Sign “bandits”
A couple of months ago, I posted a note here asking if anyone knew who was responsible for cutting up the signs that various “businesses” illegally post all over the telephone poles in far north Dallas (and elsewhere, I assume). Nobody knew much about it—but I just read an article in the MetroCrest News that explains that it is the work of a loosely organized group called “Citizens Against Ugly Street Spam” (CAUSS). If anyone is interested in learning more about them, they have a website at: http://www.causs.org/
Google Groups: houston.general
From: (Larry Kessler)
Subject: Re: Street Spam
On Sun, 17 Oct 1999 22:05:29 GMT, CAUSS
>We are a group of citizens who are very active in fighting the problem
>of Commercial Advertising signs nailed to utility poles and stakes stuck
>into the ground throughout our communities. These signs are not only
>illegal, but they make our neighborhoods look low rent. The people that
>hang these signs are freeloaders, usually promoting low class or bogus
>enterprises such as “Get Rich Working at Home”, “Lose Weight Overnight”,
>“Cheap Insurance”, etc etc.
They’re called “bandit signs” and the City of Houston has a squad devoted solely to pulling them down. What’s your plan?
Google Groups: houston.general
From: (Larry Kessler)
Subject: Re: Street Spam
>We’d be interested do know how the city of Houston is engaging in the
>removal of these signs. On my trips down there I have noticed lots of
>them, even more than Dallas. We are dedicated to fighting this problem
>all over the country, so let us know how we can help
They have a stake truck and ladders that a crew takes around to the various street corners where they pop up. The crew takes down the signs and tosses them into the truck bed. The truck has signs on its rear and sides that say “BANDIT SIGNS” with the universal red circle and slash-thru on it. City of Houston’s Dept. of Public Works can probably tell you more about this.
29 December 1999, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Space Not For Hire: Mesquite tries to cut illegal sign postings” by Drake Witham:
The holiday season usually brings the traditional binges: food, parties and good cheer. And illegal signs, of all things.
They advertise everything from Game Boys to handymen, hoping to cash in on the giving and getting. They are staked at busy intersections and stapled onto utility poles. City officials call them vertical litter.
Google Groups: austin.forsale
Date: 18 Apr 2001 03:33:06 GMT
Local: Tues, Apr 17 2001 10:33 pm
Subject: Bandit Signs: I put signs up
If you are in need of a reliable person to put up your companies bandit signs. Then I can help you out. I have been putting signs up for home builders, etc all over Austin, for the past 5 years. Please feel free to contact us by fax (512)292-6121 or call (512) 292-6121 for a free estimate.
Google Grous: news.admin.net-abuse.email
From: (Wayne Aiken)
Date: 20 Sep 2001 16:53:03 GMT
Local: Thurs, Sep 20 2001 11:53 am
Subject: Re: is http://www.cyberwealth4u.com a spamhaus?
Real-world spam on phone poles and in the road right-of-way is also illegal in many jurisdictions. Check http://www.municode.com which lists the municipal codes for a great many cities and counties in the USA. Search for “snipe sign” or “bandit sign”.
In most places around the country, you’re also perfectly free to take down this roadside trash yourself. Check http://www.causs.org for people who do precisely this.
Google Groups: co.general
Date: Sat, 10 Nov 2001 11:17:27 -0700
Local: Sat, Nov 10 2001 1:17 pm
Subject: Those ugly street corner “Work at home” signs and CAUSS
An increasing problem, especially in metro Denver, is the proliferation of street corner signs promoting “Work at Home”, “Lose weight Fast”, “29 people wanted to lose weight”, and “Affordable Health Insurance”.
These signs are known as street spam, bandit signs, vertical litter, stuff on a stick (SOS), and utility pole ads. Such signs are an eyesore and in many cities, placement of these signs is in fact illegal.
Many individuals have been removing these signs from their neighborhoods and should be commended for their efforts to keep their neighborhoods beautiful and street corners safe and unobstructed.
There is a national organization CAUSS - Citizens Against Ugly Street Spam - dedicated to keeping our corners clean. See http://www.causs.org for more information.
8 July 2004, Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution, “Illegal Ads: ‘Street Spam’ Is City’s Sign of Ugliness,” editorial, pg. A15:
For the past year, once a week I have awoken in the wee hours of the morning to troll my neighborhood, searching for and destroying illegally placed signs that seem to reproduce along our city’s streets and highways. You know the ones I’m referring to because you can’t help but see this “street spam” everyday. They offer to repair credit, forestall foreclosures, shampoo rugs, and “Buy Your Ugly House.” (Are Viagra promos and penis enlargements next?)
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (4) Comments • Thursday, November 08, 2007 • Permalink
FYI: A couple of months ago, Texas enacted a law that allows the Commissioners Court in each county to authorize volunteers to pick up (and discard) illegal signs posted in public rights-of-way. Some counties have decided to participate in the program, while others have not.
This is stupid. If signs on poles are illegal, then why are billboards legal? It’s okay for political parties and candidates can stake their bandit signs all over the city, but a guy having a garage sale cant? It’s more of the “do as we say not as we do” junk.
Seen those obnoxious signs which say “_____Singles.COM” or “___Singles.ORG” or “Single____.COM” etc etc etc? (Insert your town name in the blanks and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)
Here’s some guy’s blog about it, he did the research and figured out who was behind it.
Here’s who is responsible for the current horrible spate of SingleAustin.CRAP signs spamming our town (from WHOIS):
mad austin inc
9020 north capital of texas highway
austin, Texas 78759
Grrrr. These scumbags know nothing about “Keep Austin Beautiful”. I’m seriously thinking of calling the police and complaining.
Citizens Against Ugly Street Spam (CAUSS)TM is a website where concerned citizens and Code Enforcement Officers can discuss how to remove ugly and illegal street signs on telephone poles and other public areas.CAUSS emphasizes working with Code Enforcement in dealing with the blight of ugly, illegal signs.