Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Technology…ain’t it wonderful

A friend of mine experienced a robbery the other day. He and his roommate were asleep and some guys came in and stole most of their electronic equipment. They took his iPhone, his computer, his TV and some other things. He figured it must have been two guys because it had to be more than one to carry away his TV.

The following day, when he woke up he realized what had happened and immediately called the police. He and his roommate went to the police station and because he knew his phone has a tracking device on it, engaged it and directed the police right to where the GPS told it the phone was. But apparently that wasn’t enough to get a warrant. Instead the police knocked on the door and radioed in that they were there and the roommate called my friend’s phone. The name of the roommate showed in the display and it was enough for the police to make the arrest. My friend got all of his possessions back.

I just love this story. Not only did they recover all the stolen items, but they caught the guys red handed. It was all because he had thought enough to download an application to his phone to track it in the event it was lost. It is also because technology has gotten to the point where this is all possible, and it is also because crime is getting harder and harder to commit. You will be caught.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Saturday morning was beautiful. It had no humidity, a slight breeze and a beautiful blue sky. It would have been a perfect day to ride my bike for a long trip of about 30 miles. Instead my husband and I were helping an elderly neighbor who had spray paint all over her garage.

It happened Thursday night, or perhaps early Friday morning. Someone decided that they would spray paint their tag over six properties in the rear of our property. Fortunately, they did not get our wooden fence, but they got the stone walls of two separate garages, a vinyl fence, the vinyl siding of a garage, the side of a small camper, and the aluminum door of a garage. There were two designs on these properties and they have been seen elsewhere in the municipality.

The police are working on it, but I doubt they are going to identify who it is. Graffiti “artists” are very difficult to track down. Unless the police knows the tag and can identify it with someone, they cannot make an arrest. So we are left with the possibility of this person, or persons, doing it again.

My husband and I found a product online called Mostenbocker Lift Off #4. The company makes several types of removers and this chemical is for spray paint. A twenty-two ounce spray bottle is around $8 at Home Depot. We bought three bottles. We also borrowed a pressure washer from a friend and tried several things as well as the Lift Off. The product did fairly well on the smooth vinyl fence, but on the vinyl siding of the garage, which is textured to look like wood, no so much. The paint was caught in the ridges that resemble wood grain and even with repeated scrubbing with a steel wool pad, did not come off easily. We tried other things too; gasoline, brake cleaner, and of course straight water from the pressure washer. We did get about 80% off, but it does not look like it did originally.

The municipality has a somewhat unusual policy which is to fine the property owner if they do not remove the graffiti in a timely manner. There are other cities, like San Diego, who have a program to help eradiate graffiti. “The City of San Diego spends more than $1 million each year on graffiti abatement education and enforcement. This amount does not include the millions more spent by other public agencies, utility companies, and private property owners to remove graffiti from their properties. Nationwide, the American public spends nearly $12 billion each year to fight graffiti.” They have a program called the Paint and Materials Exchange program. “The City of San Diego operates a Paint and Materials Exchange Bank in the Chollas View area where citizens can obtain free recycled paint in limited colors for graffiti removal..”
It is my intention to start a similar program in my municipality to help combat the problem. I don’t like the fact that we, the property owner, who is the victim of vandalism, would have to be fined with a citation for not removing the graffiti. I know that when the vandal is caught they have to pay restitution, but the chances of the police identifying the person and making the arrest is remote, and if that does indeed happen, it could take years and by that time, the property owner may have moved away. The way to stop the graffiti is to cover it over as soon as it happens so that the tag does not get noticed. The objective of tagging is peer recognition: the tagger gains more notoriety the longer the tag is "up."

By doing this I hope that we will lessen the problem and improve the quality of life in our town.