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I should feel guilty about ignoring nearby gang graffiti

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POSTED September 9, 2009 1:33 a.m.
A punk – and there is no other way to describe whoever did it – spray painted “SUR” on my garage door almost two weeks ago.

The door, which is on the alley, is obviously an attractive canvas since it is white and shows off black spray paint incredibly well.

My reaction surprised me a bit. I wasn’t thrilled but I didn’t get upset. I would have been ticked big time, though, if they’d hit the fence I spent $5,000 on and a number of hours staining by hand.

I went on-line to make a report on the Manteca Police site and let the officer who reviews the electronic filings know I had taken photos – if they needed them – and I would have the graffiti removed within several days. The primer did the trick.

A block away on Powers Avenue a fence and a real estate sign still have the same style of “SUR” on them. I assumed it was none of my business and left it up to the homeowner and the real estate agent involved.

I am, however, wrong.

How can we expect the Manteca Police – or the dedicated group of volunteers they have with the Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police to spot, document and remove all graffiti? If someone doesn’t care about the property in our neighborhood to the point they let gang signs linger, then we have an obligation to do the minimal which is filing a report. That way the police are aware of it and the SHARP volunteers who address graffiti can deal with it.

By ignoring such transgressions thinking it is not our concern we are just asking for our neighborhoods to go downhill.

To this day, I still remember the first time I met Manteca’s original anti-graffiti warrior, Mike Barkley. He moved here from San Jose and bought a small apartment complex. A number of nights each week after getting home from his Bay Area job, he put buckets of paint in the back of his VW Rabbit pick-up and go around town covering graffiti.

Why did he do it? Simple. He watched the San Jose neighborhood he lived go downhill. The descent could be traced it back to allowing the proliferation of graffiti. Barkley was 100 percent right. You let it linger and you will pay a big price.

Today, before I go to work, I will check to make sure the graffiti is still there. I will then go on-line and report it. If it is still there a week from today I will do two things: First, I will call the real estate company and let them know it is a little difficult to sell a house when the for sale sign is covered with gang markings.

Second, I will knock on the door of the people who live in the house with the “SUR” on their fence. I do not know whether they rent or own it. I do know, however, they seem to be decent folks with little kids from what I can see. I will offer – providing I can get a chip of paint off their fence – to go buy a quart of paint to try to match and cover the gang marking myself.

They may not have the time to do the work, it may not be their house, or they may – just like many of us – become resigned to the fact there are jerks out there who deface property.

Whatever the case, I have an obligation to ry.
The Manteca Police have done a Herculean job in our general neighborhood nipping potential gang problems in the bud as well as applying pressure to get some other gang members or at least wannabes to move.

Children should not be exposed to such nonsense. I don’t want my neighbors – or myself – living in a neighborhood that looks like it welcomes or tolerates gangs even if the markings were made by some 12-year-old punk who is under the spell of the dregs of society.
The kids in my neighborhood shouldn’t see such nonsense nor should I.

Let the Manteca Police do the heavy lifting when it deals with gangs. All of us, though, can do the little stuff whether it is volunteering in a youth-orientated program to let kids know there are other alternatives to gangs or helping stem the spread of graffiti.

Investing in a little paint and a brush plus some time even if it isn’t my home that’s not directly impacted is a small price to pay for the greater good.
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