Long Beach resident, Joe Fleming, volunteers to help keep his city beautiful. His efforts have long involved pulling up signs that are placed illegally on city right of ways.
But one recent clean up, resulted in his arrest for petty larceny.
Fleming still can't believe it happened. He's pulled up all kinds of signs, including campaign signs, for years. He considers such signs litter when they're posted on public property. But he's now facing a date in city court after removing a sign which belongs to a candidate for sheriff.
"I saw this sign, sitting here. It was a political sign. And I said, that's on public property. That doesn't belong here," said Joe Fleming.
That's when Fleming did what he's done countless times before. He pulled up the sign near West Railroad and Beatline Road and tossed it in the back of his pickup.
"If somebody puts a sign on public land, it becomes litter. And I generally go around the City of Long Beach picking up litter when I'm on my errands," he said.
He proudly points to the corner of Klondike Road and 28th Street. The spot used to attract campaign signs.
"We cleaned that up. And now there is a beautiful sign that says 'Welcome to Long Beach'," he said.
Fleming says he generally gets community support for his sign policing efforts. But this time, he was arrested.
"Petty larceny. Willfully taking a sign valued at approximately 15 dollars," he read from the arrest report.
"I was picking up litter," explained the accused.
The sign he picked up belongs to Anderson Hall, who's running for Harrison County Sheriff. The candidate says someone else actually posted the sign. Hall told WLOX News: "That was my sign. But I didn't put it there. The sign was taken up. And it was mine."
So Hall filed charges.
City building official, Vic Lasabbe, told WLOX News that city ordinance 429 prohibits the placing of signs or billboards on public right of way. The building official did not have a clear answer about whether private citizens can remove signs which violate the ordinance. That question may have to be decided in city court.
Does it become litter or not when he places it out on public right of way?
"That's the question," said Fleming. And he says the answer is yes, it is litter and should be removed without penalty.
Fleming will appear in Long Beach city court on August 13th. He plans on pleading not guilty.