TAMPA - You see them on trees, telephone poles and along sidewalks. They're called "snipe" signs and they advertise everything from tax preparation to garage sales and cheap houses.
Code enforcement says there's been an unexplained glut of snipe signs since the first of the year, but they may have an almost diabolical trick to get rid of them.
Code enforcement attacks the problem with two-man teams.
On this Friday, Kevin Amos is the driver and Alan Villa is the picker, harvesting what you might call Nebraska Avenue Spam
Asked how long will it be before the signs they take down are back up on the telephone pole, Amost says
It could happen within the hour.
"In the last couple of months, we've just been totally inundated with illegal snipe signs on the right of ways," said Tampa's Code enforcement director, Jake Slater.
Slater puts day-glo vests on his staff because stopping to pluck signs off the right of way of Tampa's busiest streets is dangerous work. It's also costly in man hours and makes Tampa look tacky.
"It's unfortunate, because it causes so much neighborhood blight," said Slater .
Under current law, the city has few enforcement options, even when they catch someone in the act. But an ingenious solution being used in South Florida may soon be employed in Tampa.
The city plans to use the advertisers' own phone numbers against them, bombarding it with constant robo-calls that ensure any actual customer trying to get through will get a busy signal.
The robo-call idea is already being used in Hollywood, Florida. Details are being worked out at Tampa's city hall, but snipe offenders will likely have to pay a fine or pay the cost of picking up all their signs if they want to get their phone number unblocked.