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Dealing with illegal advertising signs

Friday, May 19, 2017

It’s downright criminal! Driving or travelling along the roadways one sees the numerous signs, posters and displays that are placed on public walkovers, overpasses, street light posts, etc.

These are almost at all times advertisements of some kind from all sizes of private sector enterprises. We have seen such signage ranging from the promotion of parties to the sale of wide-ranging products and even financial services. This must be wrong on all fronts. It can constitute defacement of public property, for example.

To make matters worse, officials from all of the various authorities like the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission, Ministry of Works and Transport etc, traverse these very roads daily, see them and do nothing!

Further, are there not public officials who ought to be specifically looking after these things? Why aren’t their supervisors and managers holding them accountable for their lack of performance? In fact, it seems as though these signs are increasing in numbers as such participating enterprises see it as free advertising space!

Not only are many of these public displays eyesores, they encourage others to think that it’s okay to do it. It’s such little and subtle infringement that lead to greater and more serious deviance and crimes, including white-collar crimes. It normally starts off with one sign going up, then another and another until the place is littered with them.

Imagine if a company can get away with these illegal advertising done in such a bold-faced way and in public glare, what other types of transactions are done behind closed doors?

This practice feeds right into the “broken windows” theory where if little offences are left unchecked, after a while, they grow into more serious offences which then get more difficult to remedy. Therefore, the various authorities must stop this practice right now!

Stiff fines and other types of sanctions must be imposed as well as guilty organisations must be publicly shamed. They must be made to pay the costs for removing these signs and repairing the services to its original condition. Such offences and penalties must also be made public.

There are many CCTV cameras on the roadways. Can’t these be used to identify who are placing these signs and deal with them promptly? Why are these simple offences taking so long or never being tackled? We’re always hearing about getting quick-wins and pick the low-hanging fruits—well, these have been and are facing us right in our faces for the taking. But like everything else, we mess up even the simplest of victories.

Should the various local government corporations (ie, city, borough and regional) have jurisdiction over these areas and police them better? It should be in their best interest to have these areas void of such signage. In fact, the proceeds of the fines should go into their coffers. What about the Members of Parliament? Should they not want also to have their constituencies cleared of ill-placed signs? What about community groups also? They should also want to ensure that their areas are rid of such impositions.

Don’t get us wrong on the spaces for signage. Citizens may not mind at all if such spaces are used to promote national or even community awareness of several pressing issues, eg, to spread messages of national emergency or other contact numbers for a number of public and non-governmental organisations like police, fire, ambulance, Crime Stoppers, Child Line, Counter Trafficking Unit, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Rape Crisis Society, Police Complaints Authority (PCA), and other support services of the various government ministries.

Depending on the level of technology that the various authorities may wish to acquire, they can even use such space to post photographs and other information on missing persons, stolen vehicles, alleged criminals, road diversions, etc, so that the wider public can get these information quickly and provide any feedback if possible.

The current use of illegal private sector signage paints a very untidy, unprofessional and unplanned appearance that doesn’t do well for our society especially as we will like to have an attractive environment for locals and visitors. A nice, clean, organised environment does wonders for the psyche of people passing through such areas. It is what’s expected of a developed country!

Talking about signage, we need to do much more to have adequate and proper signage of all streets, communities, towns, cities, etc. Why, for example, we can’t have for all areas in Trinidad and Tobago, signs like “Welcome to El Dorado” or “You are exiting Gasparillo” or “You are now entering Low Lands Tobago. Have a nice day!” The overpasses can also be used for these. What would be the psychological impact on citizens and visitors from such signage as compared to what exists now?

Is it too much to ask for a hotline number where members of the public can report such instances of illegal signs and expect them to be removed in 24 hours?


Contact the Caribbean Institute for Security and Public Safety at Tel: 223-6999 or 299-8636 or Email: [email protected]

The current use of illegal private sector signage paints a very untidy, unprofessional and unplanned appearance that doesn’t do well for our society especially as we will like to have an attractive environment for locals and visitors.


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