Detroit fed up with plumbing company's illegally-placed signs; pursuing 59 charges against owner

Officials announce charges against Shaw's Plumbing of Melvindale

The owner of a Wayne County plumbing company has been charged with 59 misdemeanors for violations of laws regulating signs in Detroit, with officials saying Monday the volume and location of the advertising created a public nuisance.

Shaw's Plumbing of Melvindale was named in two warrant counts after it repeatedly ignored warnings from the city about violating Detroit's sign ordinance. The penalties carry nearly $30,000 in fines if convicted.

The company's owner William Shaw IV was named in the complaints following more than a year of issues from the community tired of seeing the contractor's signs being dotted around the city.

The signs were initially removed by Detroit's Blight to Beauty program which had the goal of removing illegally placed signs. Eighteen months later, regular removals and notices to the company showed no promise of having an effect.

Last week, the 36th District Court authorized two warrants containing nearly 60 counts against Shaw. The city says its removed more than 615 signs placed by Shaw's company.

"The City of Detroit is being forced to use precious manpower and resources to remove these illegal signs from our neighborhoods," said Mayor Mike Duggan. "Enough is enough. We want our residents to be proud of their communities and not have them littered with businesses who have decided these signs are the cheapest way to advertise their services."

According to a release from the city, illegal sign postings had become such a problem that it would pursue criminal charges against the five worst offenders. The next 15 offenders would be named in civil suits where the city intends to recoup costs for resources used to remove the signs.

The city says Shaw's company went to great lengths to make sure the signs weren't removed. 

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That included using nails instead of staples and placed a plastic collar to make removing the signs difficult. At times, a box cutter was necessary to cut through the collars. Other times, the signs were hung high enough to avoid being removed, "suggesting the person installing the signs was on a ladder or back of a truck as opposed to on foot" a release said.

The efforts were an indication to the city that the company was trying to make it difficult for city workers to remove the signs.