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Grassroots Solutions #3– Combating vandalism

June 25, 2016

The residents of a little Midwestern town of about 20,000 had a vandalism problem, mostly due to obscene graffiti on three bridges and an underpass in the area.

The town council had meetings about it, business owners were asked to pony up more taxes to pay more city employees to keep it painted out, and still the obscene words and vulgar stick figures kept coming back.

The residents decided to fix the problem they had to stop the perpetrators, but catching a spray can vandal is a lot easier said than done.

The city said it didn’t have the money to keep the areas under surveillance, so a group of the residents decided to fix the problem themselves.

First they went in and sandblasted and repainted the main  graffiti target, a highway underpass into the town, but then they went a step further.

Several residents had motion activated trail cameras, and they set them up in areas that were reasonably inconspicuous.

Sure enough, the paint can vandals were back in just a few hours, striking just about dark when most businesses were closing and traffic was light.

Imagine their surprise when the local police showed up with their parents at their schools and arrested them three days before summer vacation.

That’s right, everyone of them was in junior or senior high school.

Since the parents already had the proof of their misdeeds right in front of them before the police went to the schools, and were present when their kids were arrested, there wasn’t even any real basis for parental complaints or excuses.

All the kids, and there were boys and girls involved, had to wash the graffiti off all of the  affected areas and paint them. The parents had to pay for the paint and be present while their kid put in his or her scheduled two hours a day, six days a week.

It took all summer, but there has only been one incident since then, and the culprit was turned in by his peers immediately.

The parents lost some wages, but their employers were on board and no parent lost their job. In cases where the lost wages were a real hardship for the parents, they were allowed to do additional community service instead.

It doesn’t get better than this. None of the kids went through the formal  justice system, although that was reserved as an option if they failed to show up for the work detail.

Parents learned that they had to know where their kids were and what they were doing, instead of leaving them to run the streets like stray puppies. This is grassroots justice at its best.

From → op-ed

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