CAUSS FAQ about Street Spam

CAUSS - Citizens Against Ugly Street Spam

CAUSS Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  How did I end up on the website that deals with illegal street signs?

A:   If you typed in in the URL bar of your browser, that takes you to this site. Or you could have clicked on a link to CAUSS in an article about street spam or in search engine results about street spam.

Quite a few years ago, some citizens put stickers over parts of illegal street signs in order to get the illicit street spammers to stop. The stickers were quite effective.

If you typed in a different URL and ended up on this site, we don't know. Probably a street spammer's illicit URL got preempted so that it now sends people to this website. We don't have any control over other websites - there is nothing we can do. We do hope that the information on our site helps eliminate the illegal street sign problem.

We do want to make clear that CAUSS does not put up street signs promoting CAUSS. Our purpose is to eliminate the illegal street sign problem, not add to it.

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, real estate multilevel marketing schemes, weight loss products, health insurance, sample sales, landscaping services and even pet waste removal services. Some of the most common spam signs read: Sell Your Home, We Buy Houses, Real Estate Investor, I Buy Houses, Real Estate Apprentice, Got Junk, Affordable Health Insurance, Work at Home, and Going Out of Business.

Q:  Is taking down street signs 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. In 99% of the cities across America, 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.

Federal highways are required to be free and clear of non-official advertising signs. That is also the case with most state highways.

Q:  What Is A Sign SharkTM?

A:  A sign sharkTM 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.

Q: Who Is Responsible for Placement Of This Street Spam?

A: Individuals and businesses that want free advertising and don't care that their signs are illegal, ugly, and a safety hazard. If it is a local retail business, the name or address is often shown. More often, however, it is an individual "distributor" who is part of a multilevel marketing scheme and who is trying to sign up other distributors. These spammers usually hide their identity behind a voice mail system or Internet website.

Q: What About Lost Pet and Garage Sale Signs?

A: In most locations these are illegal signs. Some cities have zero tolerance and remove these signs. Many sign sharksTM leave these signs alone, especially if they look non-commercial and relate directly to the immediate neighborhood. Also, these sign typically are only up from Friday through Sunday. The major difference is that these are not commercial enterprises, but simply a neighbor trying to get rid of some junk that another neighbor may need. For these reasons, CAUSS does not promote the removal of these signs. Lost pet signs are in the same category

Q: What About Real Estate and Home Builder Signs?

A: CAUSS does not support the removal of realtor For Sale, Open House and Homebuilder signs. The signs may be allowed due to variances in local ordinances. Should these signs be allowed, they are likely to have certain limits imposed on their placement. These rules are complex and often involve complex politics. You should report these signs to your local code enforcement office if you have any questions on their legality.

Q: Why Do I See Some Signs That Are Slashed or Painted Over?

A: Most sign sharksTM prefer to remove the entire sign. Some sharks have found that if you remove a sign another spammer will come along and assume that spot as simply "unclaimed". These sharks disable the sign (by slashing or painting) but leave part of the sign and thereby send a message to all spammers that their signs will be disabled too. Both complete removal and disabling of signs discourage the placement of new signs and this is the common long-term goal.

Q: Can I Recycle Plastic Signs That I Have Removed?

A: Many signs are made out of corrugated plastic, commonly called "Coroplast". Though the materials look the same, there are actually several incompatible varieties of plastic used in these signs. Each sign must be tested to determine its recycle category. Such testing is only effective in large industrial batches (say 4,000 pounds), so unfortunately it is not practical to recycle corrugated plastic.

Q: I own a small business. Bandit signs are the only way that I can compete with the big companies. Can't you please leave my signs alone?

A: Congratulations on having the courage to run your own business. Please realize, however, that our communities have laws against illegal signage, and those laws don't make any distinction based on the size of the business that posted them. Don't ask us to ignore your litter as a way for you to solve your competitive problems. By the way, when large companies put up illegal signs (and it does happen occasionally), we take those down too.

Q: What Is Code Enforcement?

A: There are city, county, and state laws that regulate the placement of signs on public, and private, property. Code Enforcement is the most common name for the department in city or county government that is in charge of enforcing these laws and apprehending violators. In some areas street spamming may be frowned upon yet effectively ignored, while in other areas there is zero tolerance for illegal signs. CAUSS strives to work with Code Enforcement to enforce existing laws with the help of volunteer action.

Q: What Should I Do If I Encounter A Street Spammer?

A: Be careful out there. Don't confront the spammer. Write down the individual's description, car description and license plate number along with contact information from the sign. You might even take pictures with and inexpensive camera. Contact Code Enforcement and report the incident. Carry a cell phone and call the police if you believe the police will follow up on the incident or if you are placed in a threatening situation. Be careful not to park your car where it can be blocked by an irritated street spammer. You may consider parking some distance from the sign and walk to remove it.

Q: How Do You Actually Remove a Street Sign, Especially If It Is Out of Reach?

A: Sharks use a variety of simple tools including box cutters, carpet cutters, and cutting pliers. A favorite tool for out-of-reach signs is the Sharky StickTM. This is a simple, homemade tool that can be used to remove signs that are nailed high on a telephone pole with a single whack.

Q: What Exactly Is CAUSS and How Do I Join?

A: CAUSS is an informal group of citizens from around the country who want to improve their communities be reducing or eliminating street spam. You may consider yourself part of CAUSS if you support this goal. There is no membership and no dues to pay. This web site is the primary means through which CAUSS supporters exchange information. Be sure to check the forum where people post questions, answers, and comments.

Q: I hate street spam, but I don't want to be a Shark. What can I do?

A: Report the sign(s) to your city's Code Enforcement office immediately. Many Code Enforcement respond quickly to new reports of illegal street signs.

Q: How can I promote CAUSS?

A: There are many ways to spread the word about what we are doing. Tell your friends and relatives around the country about the web site, paste CAUSS stickers on the signs after you cut them, talk about it in news groups and put a link to CAUSS on your web sites.

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