Graffiti is virtually everywhere you look in Stanislaus County. No community is untouched by the ugly and illegal markings of street punks.
It is frustrating to many of us citizens to see unsightly scrawls in Sharpies or spray paint on blank walls, houses, fences, park benches, businesses, dumpsters and railroad cars. But an incident that occurred over the weekend in Riverbank illustrates the point that citizens can play a role in curtailing the problem.
Early Sunday morning at 1:43 a.m., deputies in Riverbank were tipped off about tagging on the walls of Galaxy Theaters, Cool Hand Luke's, Prime Shine Car Wash, Aspen Gym, Auto Zone, MTI and Wooden Barriers. The tagging to Cool Hand Luke's were letters approximately 10 feet high and the tagging on the businesses appeared to be a tagging moniker. An alert citizen saw the vandals in action and reported it to 911 and then followed them to the area of the 2100 block of Candlewood Place. Deputies made contact at the home and found the three 17-year-old juveniles who were cited and released to their parents for vandalism. The Sheriff's Department release ended with this statement: "This investigation and arrest shows how critically important it is for us to work with the community in stopping these disrespectful acts of vandalisms to our community."
Similar incidences have occurred in Ceres. Readers may remember that in March 2011 a conscientious citizen watched graffiti suspect Ignacio Musino, then 19, spraypainting metal utility poles on Morgan Road - and then took a photo which we ran on our front page. The extent of the damage left behind by Musino exceeded more than $400, qualifying him for felony vandalism charges.
I remember relishing in the fact that someone decided to get involved and report the crime in a safe way, even documenting it with a camera.
The citizen was part of the Ceres Police Department' first Citizens Academy. But not everyone needs to attend an academy to do their part. It's as simple as calling 911 when you see something that is not quite right. It's too bad that somebody had not seen the vandals who caused $2,000 worth of damage to buildings at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park reported on Christmas Eve.
Graffiti cannot be tolerated in a community that is seeking to move forward, as is Ceres. The graffitihurts.org website has worded it well: "Patrons of buildings, parks, or public facilities where graffiti vandalism has occurred may feel that if graffiti is tolerated, then other more serious crimes, such as theft and assault, may also go unchallenged."
Ceres does a very good job in staying on top of graffiti and painting over it but think of how much easier it would be for citizens to help bust the perpetrators. In the case of Musino, the suspect had tagged all the street signs and power poles that he walked by, and vandalized fire hydrants, business signs at Service and Morgan and "no parking" signs. One person can do much graffiti damage within a short period of time.
Think also that perpetrators need to pay for their crimes - and help with the cleanup - so they can learn that criminal actions have consequences.
We are all citizens of the same community. We are all affected by the street vermin who inflict visual blight and economic damage they do. We need to fight back and quit being apathetic and cowardly. Don't forget his is our community.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org