Riding my bike down Palm Avenue I noticed a series of random graffiti. A mailbox covered in meaningless (to me) letters and numbers. It almost appeared to just be some one putting their initials on the mailbox.
(Side note: Why doesn't the mail person actually picking up mail there every day alert someone? They are employees of the USPS.)
A few doors down the street the same thing appears on a sign, then a wall, then a dumpster crowded with initials and numbers. As I hit 25th and El Camino those same initials began appearing on newspaper stands along my bike path.
To differentiate, none of this scribbling was art. No bubble letters, always done in only one color, etc. So save your e-mails accusing me of trying to undermine the street art so called revolution please. Gang graffiti often is a series of letters or numbers that, at first glance, seem to make no sense to the uninitiated.
Within San Mateo the Police Department works with Public Works and Code Enforcement to help the graffiti. SMPD documents the graffiti and attempts to match to suspects based on information shared from many sources including arrest data, neighboring agency information, school generated information, etc.
According to Sgt. Dave Norris, of the San Mateo Police Department, "SMPD employs a variety of techniques including saturation patrol surveillance, plainclothes officers, and reliance on community resources like Neighborhood Watch" to combat the problem.
Lest you think gang activity tends to be just random acts of vandalism such as graffiti, think again. It almost always includes some form of burglary, robbery, violence, drug sales and use. Meaning that little moniker on the mailbox is just announcing that those crimes are happening or may happen right in one of our neighborhoods nearby.
Sgt. Norris goes on to share that SMPD's "most effective tool continues to be our vigilant community". Even though the various agencies within our cities work hard to address this criminal activity, they cannot be everywhere all the time. They depend on you and I.
Even if it isn't specifically my neighborhood, I intend to stop and jot down all the addresses for the graffiti on my bike route. To the business owners at those addresses I say wake up! It has or will affect your business.
To those like myself, that have just scooted past thinking some one else will take care of it or none of my business, I remind myself and you, that every part of this city is our community. The Downtown is our front yard and the other neighborhoods the backyard's of our own.
SMPD wants to encourage the community to report graffiti activity. Here are a few numbers to have handy:
Emergencies or Crimes in Progress: 911
Secret Witness Line: 650-522-7676
Text a Tip Anonymously: 650-262-3473