Saturday, January 28, 2006

Reevaluating Priorities

At the last Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee meeting, the top two vote-getters in the contest between numerous neighborhood-enhancing projects were distinctive "identifying signs" (7 votes) and "entrance signs" (6 votes) for Salemtown (a similar distinctive sign from the Hope Gardens neighborhood is pictured to the left for reference). I was among those originally voting for such signs, because I believed that they would give the neighborhood greater definition, an attractive aesthetic, and they seemed to be something on which many committee members could agree.

With the recent rash of gang-related graffiti vandalism I have reconsidered my support for such signs. I am no longer willing to support the idea of putting any more landmarks up in Salemtown that would be vulnerable to such ugly vandalism. It is just not the right time to put signs up. Maybe at some future date when vandalism is the least of our worries, this would be a great idea.

For the time being, signs present more opportunities for crime and they do not provide any deterrent as far as I can see, unless they can be constructed with some kind of paint-proof surface. But constructing naked stone, brick, or concrete signage is an invitation to vandals, especially if it includes the word "Salemtown," which would be a source of pride for the local gang and a target for rival gangs. It is also not clear to me who would clean vandalized signs; if it would be a private matter, no one in Salemtown has a sandblaster, as far as I know. If we could not get Metro to remove graffiti, then a marred sign merely becomes a long-lived eyesore, undermining the very quality it was originally designed to enhance.

I welcome other residents' thoughts on the matter, but at the next meeting where we consider project priorities again, I am going to try to encourage other committee members to reconsider the sign project idea unless we can come up with something impervious to graffiti. This is too important a decision to get ruined by either our short-sightedness or the destructiveness of local hoodlums.


  1. It is hard to believe that the local police don't have a policy of removing gang graffiti. Or actually I should say, shameful. I always advise law enforcement that I train that it is their responsibility to remove such graffiti. Why?

    Because such graffiti places all residents at increased risk of violence and invites additional gang related crime. Graffiti is an open advertisement and a flat out challenge to rival gang members.

    Graffiti is often the catalyst for a gang opposing gangs will "disrespect" one another in their graffiti.

    Allowing this kind of defacement to stay only invites more of the same. It is the responsibility of law enforcement to maintain the peace and protect the public. By allowing open displays of gang "challenges" displays of gang recruitment they are placing the innocent residents in danger of being caught in a crossfire of far more than spray painted words.

    Law enforcement should record the graffiti for several reasons I won't get into here and then have it promptly removed.

    Maybe they should consider putting some of the "trustees" of the local jail to work painting over or removing such graffiti as opposed to spending as much time picking up roadside trash.

    This is a community service opportunity for those who are indebted to the community...not a task that should have to be undertaken by the very victims of the vandalism.

    Gang Intelligence Threat Management

  2. Although Hope Gardens is becoming a much better place to live, it still has its ugly side. They have a huge drug and prostitution problem that is displayed very publicly. As for gangs, I haven't heard much on that matter. I am curious to find out what type of things Hope Gardens dealt with and how problems were solved in the beginning. Those entrance signs were the one of the very first things they did when they recieved grant money. I wonder if they ever have been tagged and if so, how did they respond?

    I think the first thing we should do is talk to Historic Germantown and Hope Gardens, explain whats happening in our neighborhood. Find out what they think and possibly see if they can help. You never know,...but its always wise to talk to those who have endured this a lot longer than we have. Trust me, some of those people in the pretty houses used to see a WHOLE lot.

    Its always good to have a united force.

  3. My wife and I will very likely be buying a house in Hope Gardens by the end of next week. I've spent a considerable amount of time in the area, driving the streets and getting a feel for he area.

    There is, without doubt, a large drug and prostitution problem in HG, and those involved seem almost proud of it.

    But one of the benefits to Hope Gardens over SalemTown is the size. Hope Gardens is a smaller community, and a good deal of it has already been renovated (plus there's currently 14 new homes going in all listing in the $200 - $300's). I think within the next 2 years the community will be so well developed that the drug and prostitution scene will simply be squeezed out entirely.

    I for one will take every opportunity to engage the police at the first sight of suspicious activity.