Dave

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Morning Report: A Little Clean-up...

I joined GNW Board Director Richard Garcia Saturday morning for a little surveying of the hood, and some clean up of the Emerald Valley Park. We did some graffiti clean-up and a lot more trash pick-up over a short few hours, and I just wanted to leave you with a few comments.

When I was a kid, it was drilled into my head about the obscenity of littering. I can tell you that to this day, the sight of somebody tossing trash out the window of a car or leaving a public place in disarray leaves me quite pissed. Graffiti simply elevates that disgust because it is no longer an act of poor manners, but in fact a criminal act.

I'm at a loss as to why we treat this crime as a simple nuisance rather than a crime punishable by 10 whacks with a cane in a public square. In fairness, I have been known to condone the use of water boarding as a means for extracting information from GITMO residents, so I probably don't qualify as an arbiter of reasonable punishment for unruly teenagers.


I don't think that the trash problem is a result of bad kids, I think it is more likely, bad parents. The fact is, we only spent about ten minutes dealing with the graffiti. We easily spent another hour or so picking up plastic bottles, napkins, cups and other assorted items, most often within tossing distance of garbage cans.In other words, people have an easy choice of placing an empty bottle in a garbage can without having to lift a lid even, or placing the empty bottle on the ground less than a foot or two away from the can. They choose the ground.

This is a failure of parents. It is also a failure of the community.

I don't have some long list of what we need to do as a community to fix this problem, but I know that we could start by using the resources we have already paid for. I don't want to make anyone's job harder, but shouldn't our maintenance staff be at least emptying the garbage cans at the parks before the start of the weekend? Aside from the trash that was tossed all over the ground, a few park visitors at least attempted to do the right thing by using the trash cans - several were full beyond capacity.

If this isn't part of the job description for maintenance, how hard would it be to create a handful of part time positions for either some of our senior citizens or some high school aged kids who would spend a few hours a week doing the simple task of picking up the discarded trash left by obnoxious, ill-mannered park patrons (you know - your neighbors), and being certain the garbage cans are empty so those people who want to do the right thing can use them.

Director Garcia mentioned to me that if a group like The A-Team were to do what he and I did over a few hours, it could be knocked out in about 15 minutes. What a great idea.

I don't want to take the burden off of the maintenance department, but this is our community and for the number of residents, we should be able to put together a mob of volunteers for something so simple.

Like many residents, I work full time and can't tell you I can give up 20 hours a week to go pick up some unruly kid's trash or paint over the foul graffiti of some criminal who has no respect for the community he lives in, but 15 to 30 minutes once or twice a month?

I drive by the soccer fields on weekends and I see hundreds of people enjoying our great facilities. What if immediately following a soccer game, the kids and families of two teams hit one of the parks for a 20 minute clean-up? Simply making sure empty soda bottles were in the cans, discarded candy wrappers were picked up and yes, even soiled Pampers were properly disposed of. Parents, there has to be some reason you are enrolling your kids in soccer - surely it has to do with sportsmanship and being part of a team, right? Why not take a few minutes and also teach them to be good citizens? This doesn't have to be an every weekend thing. With the number of soccer teams we have, it could be rotated so each team does it once or twice a season.

I'd love to hear your ideas on how to keep the place clean. I'd also like to hear what you think about the worsening graffiti problem. I tried to submit a suggestion to the board for the budget process, but not quite sure they received the e-mail form I submitted it on. So I'll tell you about it here.

I propose that the board purchase some surveillance camera equipment that would be owned by the association but provided to residents on an temporary basis. I think of these people whose homes line Timber Path Road who are constantly the victims of graffiti. A resident would contact Chief Burton and his security staff to arrange for the loan of the equipment. The security staff could then assist the resident in installing a camera on the resident's property. After the vandals do their deed, the resident could contact SAPD and turn over the evidence to them, and the equipment would be returned to security. Yes, yes, yes, I know - we better consult the lawyers or we could be liable for something. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. ((Please forgive that outburst, it was directed toward the people who can't wipe their nose without first seeing if it is in the By Laws or if the association lawyer thinks it prudent.))

I don't expect this idea to end world hunger, but I think it is a step in the right direction toward identifying these little bastards and taking some action toward letting their parents know what their precious little Rembrandt's are up to on Friday nights.

A second suggestion I have is to provide the security staff with a digital camera. I believe that every incident of graffiti should be photographed and cataloged by date and location of the crime. I'm next expecting Chief Burton and his staff to be Jim Rockford or Magnum PI, but how hard is it to snap a picture and record the location and date. The point of this catalog is to attempt to allow the SAPD to make a connection to other crimes the vandals of done when the catch someone via the surveillance cameras mention above.

I fully understand that handing the district attorney a bunch of pictures of graffiti is not going to send these little punks off to Huntsville, but I suspect that a SAFFE Officer showing up at the home and presenting the information to parents might help get their attention.

Aside from busting out shotguns and patrolling the streets (which I oppose) what suggestions do you have as to how to deal with this situation? Tell me about.

1 comment:

Sid said...

Dave, in my thirty years of teaching middle school in the public school sytem, at the end of every class period I had to make the students do a quick floor check and under-desk search for trash, crumpled papers,etc., which the students then deposited in the trash receptacle by the classroom door as they exited my room. A single class of thirty or more students could generate quite a bit to discard within an hour.

I would always tell the students that the next class coming in would appreciate a neat and clean learning environment.

If I neglected to run the end-of-period trash search (which often happened due to time constraints or being caught by the bell)... you guessed it! The kids would leave all their garbage and trash, and I'd have to become the picker-upper to rid the floor of the debris they left behind.

It does take a village to raise a child! Teachers need help from parents to instill respect for public property, and thereby, respect for their fellow man.
Respect for others and their property is learned at home, and at school and in the community is where good parental upbringing should be demonstrated.

Unfortunately, litter and grafitti get my goat,too. Youthful offenders should be given community service hours and be assigned (yep, you might know it!)...litter pick-up and grafitti cover-up and elimination!

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I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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