Illegal Street Signs Meet Their Match: Robocaller

Automated system targets illegal signs.

Chances are you've spotted those pesky illegal ads before. The ones that ask you to call if you need tax help, want to buy a home, or if you want to sell your "junk" car.

The City of Hollywood is trying to turn the tide on the illegal ads by doing exactly what they ask: calling.

"This really kind of came to me as I was driving past the signs, that they really want us to call, and keep calling," said Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober.

The mayor has tried to deal with Hollywood's litter problem before. Two years ago he hosted a contest challenging residents to remove the most illegal signs for cash. Yet, after the clean-up, they continued popping up.

But thanks to new software the city purchased, the signs may have finally met their match.

Companies that have lined neighborhood curbs with illegal ads receive automatic calls when Hollywood police get their hands on their handiwork.

The system dials the numbers on those signs about 20 times a day.

Code Enforcement officers spot the signs, pluck them out of the ground, and then the number is plugged into the system. That's when the calls begin.

A recorded message tells the companies that their sign placement is illegal and they should go to City Hall to stop the calls.

"When they start calling us--saying they've had enough--we invite them over to the police department to receive their citation of $75 for the first offense," said Susan Jacobs, the Hollywood Code Enforcement supervisor.

Citations can add up to as much as $500.

"The problem is that they're everywhere and they bring down the look of the community. They bring down the entire look of South Florida. They make South Florida look cheap," the mayor said.

The software only cost the city $300 and it could bring other benefits to Hollywood.

"This is a great way to combat [the problem] and have our employees spending their time doing more things than picking up signs," said Bober.

The initiative was launched on Wednesday and the Hollywood Police Department has already received several calls from individuals on the receiving end of the robocalls, wanting to put a stop to the messages.

The department has also received calls from officials in different cities in Broward wanting to find out details about the software and the initiative. The Hollywood initiative could inspire other cities.

The mayor also encourages residents to pick up the phone and call companies littering the streets with their signs.

"I'm hoping resident will work with us in calling the people who put these signs up and let them know we're tired of the community being brought down by these signs," he said.

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