April 14, 2011 11:05:00 AM
Many police departments subscribe to the "broken window" theory of policing. This holds that police should get serious about preventing small crimes, such as vandalism. Petty criminals, the theory goes, see that a neighborhood that sweats the small stuff won''t allow larger crime to take root.
Our city leaders, and our police department in Columbus, are sending mixed signals. The city, which is dealing with a budget shortfall of more than a half-million dollars, last year spent valuable overtime for police officers to stake out the Columbus Riverwalk to catch graffiti artists, and then another $50,000 for a dozen surveillance cameras and warning signs along the walkway.
Yet, when "taggers" actually are able to penetrate our Maginot Line of defenses -- or go around it, and strike other areas of the city -- we have a more lackadaisical approach.
A tagger waltzed through the downtown area last week, spray-painting several areas including Post Office signs and a FedEx drop-off box on Main Street, a new transformer box by the Convention and Visitors Bureau office, and Shadowlawn Bed and Breakfast on Second Avenue South.
The response? We''ll get to it when we get to it. In a few weeks, maybe.
A tenet, in most other cities, of dealing with a graffiti problem is to clean up the mess immediately. This shows taggers that we''re watching, and we care about how our community looks. (It sends the same important message to residents and visitors.)
Part of the problem here, and we consider Columbus'' response a problem, is that the responsibility for graffiti cleanup falls to the Police Department. We think Public Works, working with police, should be in charge of this cleanup responsibility.
Graffiti isn''t a widespread problem in Columbus. We''d like it to stay that way. We think less money should be spent on surveillance and police overtime, and more on timely cleanup.
Let''s show vandals, and each other, that we''re serious about the small stuff.