It snapped into my head sometime Saturday afternoon, when I passed by an intersection where there were at least ten snipe signs -- those Coroplast and cardboard announcements promising quick weight loss, prosperous home businesses, cheap mortgages, cheap health insurance, cheap fill dirt and so on.
I think I've got an answer that will end blight from snipe signs and bandit signs once and for all.
The concept is actually quite simple. A municipality places a bounty on every snipe sign - 25 or 50 cents or so. (Snipe signs cost about $3 to $5 to make, so it's not worth it to make signs for the sole purpose of turning them in.) Pull down some signs, take them to a sign collection center (local code enforcement department, perhaps), and get your bounty.
With a sign bounty, rights-of-way and utility poles would be cleaned up FAST, with what will be the equivalent of dollar bills hanging off utility poles. With the bounty in place, a snipe sign poster will be less likely to post a sign, knowing that it's worth cash to someone who pulls it down. The cost of a sign bounty program would be far less than hiring full-time "sign police" to remove snipe signs.
Who would object to such a plan? Certainly not a Chamber of Commerce or business association -- what interest do they have in promoting multi-level businesses? Herbalife dealers, perhaps. Oh boy. Maybe sign companies, which tend to have louder collective voices in public meetings, but they're peddling a product that is illegal as it is.
Shortcomings? A few, but they're easily resolved
1) Cross-border sign snatching. If Community X offers a sign bounty, and Communities Y and Z next door don't, those seeking bounties will visit those communities, take down snipe signs there, and turn them in at community X. Essentially, Community X is paying to clean up X, Y and Z. This can be solved if a sign bounty program is administered on a regional basis; with the county or counties, cities, towns and the electric utility company contributing towards sign bounty fees.
2) What signs have a price? Real estate signs, for instance, are often displayed on weekends only. They're a bit of a nuisance, but they're usually gone on Sunday night. Some communities tolerate them, while others yank them out along with their multi-level friends. The bounty program could exclude snipe signs that are permitted or tolerated (garage sale signs, lost dog signs, or whatever the case may be.)
3) "The Michigan deposit," for lack of a better term. Aggressive sign hunters could visit other cities and counties to find signs to return for the bounty. By limiting the number of signs any person may turn in for a bounty (for instance, only 100 signs at a time), it would be economically unfeasible to visit municipalities a good distance away just to pull their signs and bring 'em back.
(BTW, in my town, I have a zero tolerance police towards "street spam." Real estate signs advertising development located in the town is tolerated in moderation on weekends, and that's it. Usually, snipe signs are pulled immediately after they are spotted, and I do some quick research to find the poster. They get a nastygram (and second offenders go to the Code Enforcement Board!), and the streets stay much cleaner than those of adjacent municipalities. The word is getting out -- don't spam my little town.)