Monday, June 27, 2011

A 'Thank You' note to Vandals

Our neighborhood has a little green telephone junction box at a prominent street corner not far from our house. Like many public surfaces in this city, it has been repeatedly hit by taggers (I had photos posted of the tags, but after advice given in the first comment and by the City's graffiti abatement officer, I've deleted them).

I’ve taken to cleaning off the graffiti with a kit provided by the City’s anti-graffiti office. Sometimes the paint comes off easily, but recently taggers have been using a kind of etching paint that defies removal.

Occasionally the utility company comes out to spray paint the box so it looks like new. The crew did this last week but the box was tagged the very next day.

My most recent response is shown here. After trying to remove an angry face marked on the box, I simply covered the whole thing with black plastic from a cut-up trash bag. For good measure I duct taped it in place. I know, that too is ugly but at least the intention is obviously well-meaning.

Besides I added a small sign to the cover.

I gave some thought to what the sign might say. How does one get through to a young ego-centric, sociopath? The unprintable words I mutter when I see this vandalism clearly shouldn’t be on public display and would only provoke the perpetrator. I finally settled on....

Thank you for not
defacing our

Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The irony should be apparent. Why am I thanking a would-be vandal for not vandalizing? Do I thank bank robbers for not bank robbing? Or jerks for not being jerks?

Shouldn’t I just say “Lay off!”? I concluded a command would only be a goad.

My mild “thank you” approach seemed worth a try. At least other people will read the sign, and, who knows, my in-your-face gratitude might be direct enough to get through.

If the large print doesn’t work, perhaps my starkly contrasting small print warning will.

So far my sign has been up three days without being trashed. That’s longer than the freshly painted box lasted, but I fear my handiwork’s days are numbered.

I’m already working on a Plan B.

P.S. Now the abatement officer tells me that the black bag could heat up and damage the contents of the box. Fortunately, the weather has been cool. I asked her to send the repainting crew out again. I also requested that my sign be allowed to be pasted to the box. I'm waiting to hear what she has to say.

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