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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Neighborhood Report: GNW Library Tagged...

We stayed up until almost 2 in the morning visiting with friends and singing (if that's what you call it) a few Karaoke tunes, so getting up well after 9:30 is something totally out of the norm for me, but very necessary this morning. I put on a pot of coffee and checked a few e-mails and before long, our big dog, Gracie was ready to go out and visit the backyard for a little while.

After such a crappy weather day yesterday - you know, when it refuses to just come right out and rain, but keeps misting as if we had suddenly moved to England or someplace wet all the time - it was a stunningly beautiful morning today, with just the slightest of breezes to ease the warm sun. So, my dog and I threw the ball around for a little while. Well, technically, I threw the ball, and in return for a few kibbles from her treat bag, I'd get the slobbered over dirty tennis ball back so the entire process could start again.

I thought to myself how much I loved the mornings like this and how much I appreciated living in Silver Creek and in San Antonio. If the weather would stay like this forever, life would be perfect, at least in my backyard.

But sadly, people all over my neighborhood, and people in neighborhoods throughout our city will eventually leave their homes and be greeted with what I saw as I drove by the local library just down the street. One person; one incredibly inconsiderate, selfish and malicious punk who for whatever reason finds himself to be so self-important, that he must leave his mark in five-foot tall letters on the brand new addition to a place shared by everyone.
You might suspect that this kind of thing really gets on my nerve. It does. I do a lot of research on the Internet and participate in discussion boards where Tagging is a topic of interest. I'm so sick of reading that these people with their cans of spray paint are simply future artists trying to express themselves. One guy wrote that we should allow these taggers to use the world as their canvas, and eventually, they will become good enough to have their "art" displayed in galleries. Why is it that people with this forgiving attitude never give directions to their personal privacy fence, mail box and home?If they want to be seen in a gallery somewhere, let's start with their face up on a wanted poster in the Post Office. But that won't happen because, even though everyone agrees that this vandalism is against the law, it is not nearly the infraction that going 5 miles per hour over the speed limit is. That is not a jab at our police either. But it is a jab at our city council and the people responsible for directing the Police Chief in where they want emphasis placed on enforcing laws.

Speeding tickets generate revenue; trying to find some 16 year-old with a can of spray paint tucked in his pants costs money. I get it. But what I don't get is why with all the money spent to build new public facilities, we don't have the sense to add in the extra minimal amount of money needed to outfit each new building (and hopefully retrofit existing buildings) with surveillance cameras that could first, alert someone to the fact that someone is doing something, or if not, at least provide evidence of who the culprit was after the fact?

Industry is already on to this. Construction companies have figured out that it costs them less money to spend cash up front to provide surveillance to construction sites to deter and/or catch the vandals and thieves, than it does to constantly react to the problems that occur when building anew home. So you can imagine that people in the security industry have come up with ways to help.

I drive by Wolfe Stadium every morning on my way to work. On one side of Callahan Road is a neighborhood of older, modest, homes. There was one house, obviously abandoned, that was so tagged up that to tag it any more would require the "artist" to use a roller just to clear off an area before he could then deface the property with his latest work.

On the opposite side of the road, behind the stadium, they have turned an empty field into what looks like some sort of concrete baseball diamond. I really have no idea what it is, but apparently, someone realized that given the proximity to the vandalized homes across the street, they should figure out how to protect this new thing.

So as I drive by one morning, I see this little trailer like thing with tall spot lights, flashing sirens, speakers and cameras. The logo on the side of this thing says "Pro Vigil" and of course, I looked it up. You can too, here. The bottom line is, this equipment can detect movement in the area being protected, then it lights up the place, gives an audible warning that the police are being called, takes pictures of everything that happens and if the intruders do not leave the site, police or whoever (private security) are called to the scene.
I don't expect the city to go out and purchase something like this for every public space - can you imagine the outcry from the "This is Big Brother" crowd? But how hard is it to use a little common sense in planning to consider physical security of buildings as a factor when funding projects? Blame it all on 9-1-1 and say you are trying to catch terrorists, maybe that will get us some federal funding to assist. But for how much longer are we going to sit back and just live with the continuous, daily barrage of new tagging everywhere around the city?

I do know that the city has tried to take action on a small scale. They have already used surveillance cameras to identify and arrest several taggers. Great. Now that you know what works, let's step it up.

If you live in my part of town, or if your part of San Antonio is watching the value of your home drop because of the increased tagging, I urge you to send a message to your district councilperson. We need a little less of worrying about what entrepreneurs do in their restaurants, and a little more concern with the blatant vandalism.

Or you can confine yourself to beautiful days throwing a ball to your dog in the comfort of your backyard. If we don't get a handle on this situation, that's about as good as it is going to be.

Tell me what you think about it.


Maureen said...

Wow, I didn't go out that way today, but I would've been pissed, too. I don't think it's art at all, and how come nobody ever sees these little $hithead$ in action?

I'll send a letter in, but I have little faith that they will do anything about it.

(can I still play in my backyard?)

Albatross said...

Dave, you've echoed all my sentiments about tagging and other forms of spraypaint vandalism. There are no redeeming qualities about tagging, and it does nothing but bring a neighborhood down. It is destruction of private property, and it's intimidating. I wish the police would, or could, do a lot more about it.

Anon E. Mouse said...

Dave, was that 2nd graffiti (in orange paint) up there on the Library bldg when you took the original photo? I went by there today and saw a 2nd tag, in orange, nearer the corner of the bldg (away from Grissom Rd) on the same side of the building. I had gone there to drop off a book in the drive-thru drop off area.

Sid said...

Damn these taggers! Is there any place they haven't violated here in San Antonio? I cannot figure out how they can so stealthily spray their gang graffiti and not be noticed by passers-by! How and when in the heck do they manage to tag the overpasses on our major freeways? It is just an absolute shame that they have to express themselves by ruining the appearance of our city! The taggers should be rounded up and be given paintbrushes to paint homes in poor, run-down neighborhoods as a court ordered community service.

KeithAlanK said...

I love that theory that encouraging taggers will turn them into "real" artists.
BS, plain and simple.
Real artists buy paint and canvas, or charcoal and bristol or whatever, then create something of lasting value.
Tagging is the same as a dog peeing on everything he can to mark territory.
I think if we caught a few taggers and PAINTED THEM, it might have a deterrent effect.
While we're at it, let's give them belts so we don't have to look at their underwear.
Really TIGHT belts, with locks.

Anonymous said...

Is the death penelty to much for the taggers??? I think not. There are coatings that resist tagging. They are clear and can be sprayed on alomst and surface. They make the paint bead up and can be washed away easily. Mention that to the powers to be...

Dave said...

They make the paint bead up and can be washed away easily. Mention that to the powers to be...

I'll pass it along - no question, this is a good long term idea and many places have started building with vandalism in mind. You'll notice that many public elevators and restroom stalls have some sort of brushed aluminum effect to them to discourage people from carving letters into the walls.

The daunting thing is, even if the spray works, how HUGE of a job is it to have the city go out and cover every surface? And frankly, that is the problem we face.

Please don't misunderstand; when I make the correlation to terrorists and taggers, I don't mean to suggest that they are on the same level. But, as many US Homeland Security officials have stated, "we have to be correct 100 percent of the time, the terrorists only have to get it right once" the problem with these taggers is, they can tag as quick as they can walk. If it rained, anti-tag spray, we'd still have to clean it up, it would just be easier to clean.

The answer (in my mind) is to catch the current taggers and prosecute them ahead of other minor criminals, which will help to deter future taggers.

If you want to ask me what I would do if I were king for the day, it would involve rope, balls, and trees. Petty fines and community service are not the answer. But it is more important to work within the system we have - so don't even take me out of context, Hillary.

A good start is to get our city leadership involved. Whether you live in The 250 or not, feel free to join us at a meeting of the GNWatch on Wednesday, 27 February at 7:30 to discuss.

Lynne said...

I was also disgusted with the Library tag. We will definitely try to attend the next Watch meeting (been meaning to for a while). In the past five years the tagging has just gotten worse and more widespread. There is a ton of fingerpointing that can happen (would they tag their parents' house?) but it all comes down to prevention and prosecution.
By the way, kudos to those helping clean up those messes! You certainly keep busy.

Anonymous said...

I was walking my dogs at zachry middle school about three weeks ago and caught two teenagers in the process of tagging the cement under the bleachers. I called the police and was assured someone was on their way. The kids jumped a fence and took of down Timber Path. I followed the kids for a couple blocks in my car, but lost track of the. I waited for 45 minutes for the police to arrive so I could give them a description and location where I last saw the kids, but no officers ever arrived. That incident has greatly reduced my image of the SAPD. I went back to walk my dogs last week and the school has started locking its gates at night to keep out these delinquents, even though they had jumped the fence the night I caught them tagging. School parks are public parks and locking their gates only keeps out mature, decent citizens like my self, who wish to walk their dogs or take their children to the park and does nothing to deter these taggers.

Dave said...

...but no officers ever arrived. That incident has greatly reduced my image of the SAPD.

I'm sorry to say but your story is not the first I have heard of this type of thing. I know that the immediate thought is to think badly of the police, but they simply have too many more immediate calls to make. I'm not apologizing for them; simply telling you what I know to be true.

I have a great deal of admiration for Chief McManus. But he needs direction from his boss, the City Manager, and her boss, the Mayor and City Council to get the order to make tagging a higher priority.

Call and e-mail your council member, Delicia Herrera, and let her know how you feel.

Please consider getting a camera to keep with you. Take pictures of the little bastards and even if the police don't respond, please get the pictures to me.

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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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