"Alright, who did that?" asks Barney Fife in one episode of the Andy Griffith Show.
He's facing three men on a bench on the sidewalk of Mayberry's business district. The men don't answer.
"Come on, come on, who did it?" Barney asks again, growing more agitated.
"Did what, Barney?" one man asks.
The excited deputy answers back, "Threw that piece of paper in the street!" Barney then threatens to count to 10 for someone to cough up the name of the perpetrator.
One older gentleman confesses, "Oh for Pete's sake, Barney, I did it. What's so terrible about that? It's just a gum wrapper."
Barney puts his hands on his hips and says, "I'll tell you what's so terrible about it. You start with gum wrappers and then it's paper bags, then newspapers, then tin cans and rubbish. The first thing you know, Mayberry's up to here in litter. Now litter brings slums and slums brings crime. Now is that what you want to see started here in Mayberry, a crime wave? Well I don't and I aim to nip it in the bud."
Not really. There's a lot of truth to what Barney said in that episode of 50 years ago.
It's a vicious cycle actually. Places where trash is routinely deposited and permitted to remain leads reflects and fosters an attitude where people don't care. Thieves take notice and see such areas as easy pickings since people are apathetic and don't care. Typically those are places where people don't do yard work, don't paint houses, don't remove discarded appliances from the porch or yard, let abandoned cars sit parked in driveways and then the rents go down. Areas with lower rents tend to have a higher crime rate. The good people, unwilling to live with such neglect, move to better and newer neighborhoods.
This may not be your neighborhood we're talking about but chances are you know where such neighborhoods are in south Modesto, Ceres or Hughson or Keyes. You can see it in the peeling paint, neglected lawns, shopping carts left in the gutter, accumulated piles of trash, that rusting 1980 Monte Carlo that is awaiting a day when somebody might fix it to where it runs, Christmas lights hanging from the eves in June, piles of wood covered by a tarp, and ugly RVs dominating the street scape.
Then there's the issue of garage sale holders who disregard city law and common courtesy by posting garage sale signs on poles and leaving them up after the sale is over! While they curl up around the nails in no time they're an eyesore - the same kind of eyesore when they blow onto the ground and nobody picks it up.
This isn't just a city problem requiring a city government cure. This is an everybody problem requiring an everybody cure. Just like one property owner can ruin it for an entire neighborhood, one can initiate the start of reversing such conditions.
Ask yourself if you're part of the problem if you're not a part of the solution.
Look at your neighborhood and ask yourself if your property is one that people appreciate or curse. Maybe it's time to clean up, paint, and haul off the trash. If you are already caring for your property, form a neighborhood cleanup effort and offer help if you can.
Have you walked to the mailbox and saw trash and left it there? It may take one person to throw down trash but it's also one person who picks it up. Bend over and pick it up, even though you didn't do the waste.
If you see a shopping cart on your block and have a pickup, maybe you could load it up and drive it back to the store.
If you have a yard sale, understand that the city does not allow you to put up signs, unless it is a sign directly in front of your house and only during the sale.
Do you see a business or shopping center that doesn't care and shows blight? Speak up to the manager or owner. If you can present the case that condition affects the bottom line, you can get their attention.
You can also pressure city officials to do more about code enforcement. One code enforcement officer is not enough. The council is intending to talk more about it at the Monday, March 23 Study Session. The meeting will be held at the Ceres Community Center.
If you want to make a difference on a single day, Love Ceres is coming up and plenty of volunteers are needed to pull weed and pick up trash. Visit www.loveceres.com and turn up in work clothes for the 9 a.m. rally on Saturday, April 18 at the Ceres Community Center.
Ceres needs to adopt a culture of caring. You can't wait for the next person. You must do it yourself.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org