Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Graffiti: See it? ACT!

NOTE: This is a ‘guest posting’ by Victor Salazar, Program Manager, Silver Spring Regional Center Weed & Seed Program

Crude bathroom writings, gang symbols, wall markings placed by ink, paint or scratch marks utilizing sharp objects. If you survey most people in Silver Spring they would say that I am describing “graffiti.” To the minority it is considered an art form placed on walls, busses, trains, and other forms of public or private property without permission of the owner. For most, it is considered an eyesore, destruction of property, vandalism, illegal, expensive to clean-up and visibly detracting from the quality of life of the Silver Spring community.

So what can you do when you see it? I want to pass on some information to those of you who walk by it, drive by it, or ride by it, shake your head and wish you could do something about it.

First of all if you, unfortunately, have fallen victim and find your personal property vandalized by such an act, here’s what to do. Before cleaning it call Montgomery County Police Department’s non-Emergency number (301) 279-8000*. Police officers will come to your location and photograph the markings.

If you see markings on the public school building that your child attends contact school administration immediately. Every school website along with telephone numbers and school administrators email address can be found at www.mcpsmd.org . Fortunately, Montgomery County Public Schools has a low tolerance for the visible defacing of public school buildings and will usually have the markings cleaned up by the end of the school day.

What if you see markings on electrical utility boxes, stop signs, commercial building walls like McDonalds or 7-11, and cannot determine who owns or would respond to cleaning up the community’s newest eyesore? Then “grab the bull by the horn” and contact GRAB. According to their website:

"GRaffiti ABatement Partners, Inc. (GRAB) is a not-for-profit private-public partnership. Community, business and government are working together to eliminate graffiti vandalism in Montgomery County, Maryland, through eradication, education and enforcement strategies. GRAB, established in 1996, is the vision of former Councilmembers Betty Ann Krahnke and Marilyn Praisner."

- You can e-mail GRAB's Kathy Paunil at Kpaunil@Verizon.net and/or call 301-607-GRAB (4722)* (Don’t hesitate taking a picture of the graffiti and please be descriptive of the location.)

- Check out their web-site at http://www.graffitifree.org/

If you want our Silver Spring Regional Center and/or the Urban District to know about your ‘find’ and help you get closure, don’t hesitate sending us your picture – again with a clear description of the location – to SilverSpringRegionalCenter@gmail.com (Also, make sure you let us know what steps you’ve taken – who you’ve contacted so far, etc.) Our “Red Shirts” do a great job of keeping the downtown area clean of graffiti. Our Center staff can also help follow up – and support - your efforts to get graffiti cleaned up throughout the Silver Spring Regional Center as well.

So why care at all about this small and minor nuisance? Under the crime prevention theory of “broken windows” when vandals break the window of an abandoned urban apartment building and find it un-repaired in a timely manner, vandals return and break a few more windows. If the property is still left uncared for then eventually the property is defaced with ink, spray paint and becomes the home of squatters, vagrants and location of other types of illegal activity. However, by being vigilant and timely in the repair of the building vandals grow frustrated and look for a different location where their activity isn’t challenged.

As I conclude this post I would like to pass on how members of the Silver Spring Community at Northwest Park Apartments worked with partners of the Weed & Seed program to deal with vandals who had infiltrated their community. During the Spring and Summer of 2009 the moniker “44” began appearing on apartment walls, laundry rooms, spray painted on the hoods of vehicles and on bus stop shelters. Collaborating with residents, Montgomery County Police, Maryland National Capital Park Police, apartment property managers, local elementary school administrators, every incident was reported and documented leading to the arrest and prosecution of a local tagger crew. It has been over a year and the “44” moniker has not been seen since.

(*These are two phone numbers that we should all have programmed on our phones!)

If you see graffiti: Act!... It is part of our civic responsibility!

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. Recently, the Northwood Chesapeake Bay Trail's intrepretive signs and some trees were tagged with graffiti. I promotely cleaned and spray paint blended the tree bark with brown and grey. Graffiti gone and thankfully it hasn't returned!

Tina said...

Thank you for explaining what we can do when we see graffiti. While it may be viewed as an "art form", I'd like to channel these "artists" into a more positive forum. Meanwhile you've given us some clear directions on whom to contact, for which I thank you.

--- Tina Slater

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I disagree, or agree; I think that generally, I like graffiti, especially what I see when riding on the Metro. But I think it's great that graffiti is not on public murals or other official art (which usually looks better than graffiti). I wish more might be done to guard against any future potential defacing of such public art.

gridlocksmith said...

Thanks for the reminder. It is our civic duty, especially, to take steps against defacing traffic signs.

We should also think of ways to help change the attitudes of the defacers.

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