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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 21, 201412:00 PM EST

Robocalls for sign violators return; public awareness campaign unveiled

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The city has reinstated its electronic warfare campaign against signs placed illegally in the public right-of-way and after a week of renewed enforcement, 250 telephone numbers have been entered into the system.

When an inspector spots a sign, the telephone number on the sign is entered into the system and the number is called from six times to more than 200 times per day, depending on how many signs have been placed on public property.

The call from the city informs the owner of the number that the sign is in violation of the law. The call lasts several minutes, making it difficult for potential customers to complete a call.

The calls from the city continue 24/7 until the owner of the sign goes to the Municipal Code Compliance Division office and receives a citation.

Two telephone numbers on signs that advertise “We Buy Houses” are the most common violators with a total of 76 entries, according to Robert Prado, chief of the division.

Since Aug. 11, eight citations have been issued, Prado reported Wednesday to the City Council Special Ad Hoc Committee on Jacksonville’s Neighborhood Blight.

Telephone numbers on illegal signs are updated twice daily, adding new numbers and removing the numbers owned by violators who present themselves for citation.

The committee has recommended that fines for illegal roadside signs be increased from $55 to $150 for one sign, from $75 to $300 for the second sign and from $125 to $500 for the third and each additional sign. Legislation is being prepared for council consideration that would amend the fine schedule.

The committee got its first look at a blight public awareness campaign using the slogan “Jax is our city, don’t trash it.”

Paul Martinez, director of Intra-Governmental Services, presented concept logos and flier and print ad layouts.

He also showed the committee two mascot concepts, a “trash can man” and an owl character delivering the message, “Keep Blight Out of Sight,” that could make personal appearances at schools, sports events and festivals, including One Spark and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival.

The proposed campaign also would include public service advertisements in print and broadcast media, direct mail, email, social media and advertising wrapped on public transportation.

Another concept being considered is a mobile app that would allow a smartphone user to capture an image of blight which would be sent to the city along with the location. Martinez said the app would update the sender of the image with the disposition of the case.

“We’re looking at the campaign on different levels,” he said.

Committee chair Denise Lee said city departments, council and the administration have been working together to solve blight issues, but the campaign could bring in another advocate for eradicating the problem.

“The link we haven’t gotten into is for the people to know what we’re doing,” she said. “We want the public to know there is a concerted effort to eliminate blight.”

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