Melvindale business owner notorious for tacking hundreds of ad signs to light poles sentenced to clean up other people’s mess

  • Nuisance sign removal part of Detroit’s continued Blight to Beauty effort 
  • Repeated warnings ignored by business owner; city sought legal action 
  • 59 misdemeanor counts of violating city sign ordinance authorized by 36th District Court  
  • William Shaw was sentenced to pay fine and complete community services hours with blight removal team in Detroit 
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William Shaw taking down illegally posted signs on the corner of 7 mile and Evergreen Road, Photo By Elonte Davis


Following charges made in July 2023, Melvindale business owner, William Shaw, has recently been sentenced to 40 hours of community service for violating city sign regulations by the repeated hanging of commercial signs without proper authorization. Ordered by a 36th District Court judge, Shaw removed illegal signs other business owners have posted in Detroit.  

On Friday, Shaw began his sentence by removing illegally posted signs in the area of 7 Mile Road and Evergreen Road and proceeded with the City’s blight team to additional locations.  

Violations of sign regulations are considered a public nuisance because they create visual clutter. Shaw was charged with 59 misdemeanor counts of violating city sign ordinance.  

“People think they can take advantage of Detroit and allow their signs to become a nuisance as they litter our lawns and streets,” said Brad Dick, City of Detroit Chief Operating Officer. “Our residents are fed up and we stand behind them as we continue to enforce city sign regulations. We hope this sends a direct message to others who repeatedly put signs up without authorization that there will be consequences.” 

Gail Tubbs, president of O’Hair Park Community, helped with the nuisance sign initiative. She describes Shaw’s sentence as poetic justice.  

“This particular business got very crafty in that they used screws to advertise their business in an effort to make it harder to remove,” said Tubbs. “This is a great start in sending the message that the citizens of Detroit do not want added distractions while driving and that the City of Detroit is serious about making repeated violators accountable.” 

In 2022, the city’s Blight to Beauty program began a nuisance sign removal process with the goal of removing illegally placed signs after receiving complaints from residents. After eighteen months of regular removals by the city’s blight remediation division and contact made with business owners, the team witnessed a decline in illegal signage.  

During the summer of 2023, an average of more than 400 signs were removed by the team, which decreased significantly from the average of more than 1,700 taken down over the same period the prior year. Though the numbers were trending downward, some offenders were not removing their illegal signs because of warnings, which forced the city to take legal action.  

“Our community deserves better; the city is using precious resources removing these nuisance signs, spending time scraping off artist or producer ads or removing signs from medians—this is not acceptable,” said Katrina Crawley, Assistant Director of City of Detroit’s Blight Remediation Division, General Services Department.  

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William Shaw fulfilling his community service sentence, photo by Elonte Davis


Background on case against William Shaw IV 

Shaw’s Plumbing was found to be the worst offender among the top twenty identified. From February 2022 to July 2023, the city used funds and manpower to take down more than 615 of Shaw’s signs, found in every corner of the city.  

During the process, Shaw, who lives in Ecorse, received warnings for nuisance signage that included text messages sent to all known phone numbers, repeated phone calls, and cease-and-desist letters from the law department, demanding he stop littering our city with his signs. In addition to the warnings, the law department sent a Fair Warning Letter requesting that Shaws’ owner or representative attend a meeting on July 17, 2023, with the law department to address the ongoing violations of the city’s ordinance. Shaw ignored all attempts to inform him of the sign ordinances and continued to nail his signs to city property.  

Not only did Shaw place hundreds of illegal signs in neighborhoods across the city, he went through extra effort and cost to keep them there. Instead of a basic staple gun, Shaw used a nail gun with threaded nails that have wide plastic collars that make removing them extremely difficult. In many cases, city workers had to use a box cutter to cut around the heavy-duty nail heads.  

Shaw also had many of his signs mounted at heights that made them hard to remove, suggesting the person installing the signs was on a ladder or back of a truck as opposed to on foot.  

Charges were requested by the city’s Law Department and Friday, July 28, 36th District Court authorized charges on 59 counts of violating the City of Detroit’s sign ordinance.  

The Blight Remediation Division works to improve the quality of life for Detroit residents through blight removal of all forms, including nuisance signage. Their outreach covers community education on violations through remediation and communication. In partnership with legal representatives, the division will continue to hold businesses accountable for violating ordinances across the City of Detroit. 

For more information on city sign and advertising ordinances see: ARTICLE IV. - REGULATION OF BUSINESS AND ADVERTISING SIGNS | Code of Ordinances | Detroit, MI | Municode Library.