Prior to moving to Hesperia I believed graffiti was confined to the bowels of large cities where "placas" remain on inaccessible walls in places too remote for removal; like the industrial parts of town, freeway overpasses, and walls adjacent to rail lines. I saw graffiti as an indication that the community had given up on the fight to eradicate blight and had surrendered to the ugliness that advertises the turf-defined presence of gangs.


The community I lived in was graffiti free, not because "taggers" did not tag, or gangs did not exist, but because that community had an effective abatement program. Citizens insisted graffiti be removed and that law enforcement keep control of the criminals who sought to dominate the streets.


I am disappointed that some people are casual about this. The February 2008 article in Smithsonian Magazine, entitled Aerosol Art, describes graffiti as noncommissioned art. They call it "Contemporary Portraiture". Although examples of underground street art were on display at the National Portrait Gallery, it's notable that the street artists were not allowed to paint directly on the walls of the Gallery, as "taggers" routinely do in our communities. "Taggers" had to submit hangings of their craft that could be removed when the exhibit was over. Having graffiti sprayed onto a removable canvas is an interesting concept but removable or not, in my opinion, the Smithsonian exhibit gives graffiti a status I don't believe it deserves.


When light poles and stop signs (city property), the mailbox (federal property), and a utility box (So Cal Edison property) on my block were tagged, I took pictures, but not for the exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery. I emailed them to the Director of Development Services. The pictures were forwarded to the attention of Scott Smith head of the abatement team who saw to it that the graffiti was removed. This mischief must have cost the city a sizable sum. They could not use the customary paint-over brown paint. The stop sign is red, the utility box is green, the mail box is white and the light standards are stone. It was a lot more costly for Hesperia taxpayers to remove this Contemporary Portraiture than it was for the National Portrait Gallery to remove their display.


I also called the Police Department number posted on the Neighborhood Watch signs wondering if the "Watch" folks were watching out for our common interests. Others in the neighborhood besides me must have noticed that property was vandalized, but apparently no one else was alarmed enough by the defacing of public property to set off an alarm. Things moved quickly once the PD got the information. Two members of our SMASH (anti-gang) unit arrived at my home.


The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department takes the presence of gangs seriously. It has a SMASH certification program. Our SMASH team had checked out the moniker and determined it was not from an established gang. Seems our vandal was an independent contractor looking for personal recognition. He/she won't get any publicity from this column as I will not tell you what name was used. If our local pest was looking for personal fame and recognition, I suggest he/she is a "bragger" as well as a "tagger."


Captain Lance Clark, chief of our Police Department explained that our abatement program is new and expanding. The Abatement crew did a really good job of removing these eyesores and our "bragger/tagger" does not seem to have the need for further public display as I don't see him/her signing anything more. Unfortunately, like other pests, someone else has taken his place.


This isn't a debate over art; it's a heads-up warning of the danger of potential civic deterioration. The Hesperia city website has a position statement "City Hall sends message to tagging crews - go away." We all need to help our community eradicate these eyesores. The Sheriff's website states that the Hesperia Station encourages anyone witnessing persons affixing graffiti or tagging to any property to contact the Sheriff's Dispatch at 245-0011 or to contact We-Tip at 800 78-CRIME. But even when we don't see the crime being committed, we can show real and look-alike gang members we don't want their artwork hanging around here.