JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville is cracking down on illegal signs all over town.
So far, the city has cited more than 230 business owners, and the city is making the illegal sign activity known by "robo-calling" those responsible for the signs, 50 times a day until those people appear in person before code compliance and pay their fines.
News4Jax spoke to some of the business owners who are putting up illegal signs to advertise, and they're calling the robo-calling harassment.
Local business owner Paul, who uses signs to advertise for his tree trimming company, said he's sick of the calls he's getting from the city.
"They're calling me on the phone probably every five minutes, telling me I have to appear in court, and they won't leave me alone," he said. "They're harassing me big time. I'm just trying to make a living, that's all. I said, ‘This is harassment, leave me alone.' I said, ‘I'll call you every five minutes, see how you like it,' and I have."
The city said the signs are illegally placed on city property. Signs that advertise a business, promote a yard sale or even look for the owners of a lost dog are considered blight.
A member of Jacksonville's Code Enforcement explained the signs, referred to as "snipe signs," are considered litter.
The automated call going out to businesses placing illegal signs on city property says:
"This is an automated message from the city of Jacksonville. Illegal signs containing this phone number have been found on public property. Further placement of these signs should cease immediately. This broadcast will continue until you appear in person before the Municipal Code Compliance Division located at 214 North Hogan St., Suite 134. If you have any questions, please call 904-255-7000. Thank you for your cooperation."
"The code officer confiscates the sign once he finds it, but if signs continue to go up, they will be adjudicated repeat offenders, and the fines will go up incrementally," explained a Jacksonville code enforcement officer, who didn't want his identity revealed.
The illegal signs come with a hefty price tag for offenders. The city charges $50 per sign and for every day that the sign remains on city property, the price goes up.
A man named Moses told News4Jax over the phone Monday that he lives in Charlotte but advertises his company, "We Buy Houses," all over Jacksonville.
"I think we help a lot of citizens trying to get out of a property, and they have no way to sell it," said Moses. "It saves the homeowner a lot of hassle and headache and at the end of the day it really helps the city, because if the property falls into foreclosure, the city in a sense is going to have to foot the bill with some of that because you're going to have overgrowth, vandalism with the property and things like that."
"That's what is giving me the business," said Paul. "I never thought signs like that would do it, but you wouldn't believe how many calls I get, they say ‘we saw your sign.'"