Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ojai Graffiti and Vandalism

Have you or someone you know been a victim of gang-related spray painting or other vandalism? Or has your vehicle, home or business been targeted by someone, known or unknown? The OVN is planning an extensive look at local vandalism. Tell us your thoughts on how vandals should be punished.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
As of this writing, there has been no post for six days on this subject. My thought is not that the subject is unimportant, or that people reading this haven't been impacted. Instead, I think the subject of graffiti and vandalism involves more than simple criminal behavior and destruction of property. Because of additional issues like race, class, gangs, illegal immigration, anti-social behavior, poor parenting, etc. readers don't want to talk about it on the record because there is no upside to being identified by the OVN.

Lenny Roberts said...

Interesting observation, Anonymous. Let's see how, and if Ojai will react to your posting. The best way to deal with problems is to face them head-on, and Ojai has a graffiti problem. People need to help find solutions, and hopefully will in the upcoming OVN report.

Laignee Barron said...

Gaffiti and Vandalism should be huge topics of discusion in Ojai. It's been a worsening problem that needs to be addressed.
I think a lot of the problem links back to the mentality that there isn't much for teens to do in the valley. Although I feel that's a highly inaccurate view point, it is true that many teens aren't finding creative outlets, but are rather looking for easy entertainment.
Like somone I've discussed this issue with, I believe that kids doing graffiti need to be caught before the crime escalates to something bigger, like vandalism. I don't think that jail is a good option, however. It doesn't solve the problem, it just moves the kids somewhere else.
I think repairing the damage works for a first time offender, but when it keeps occuring with the same kids more serious steps need to be taken.
I think a lot this issue could be solved by parents talking to their kids about it. They need to teach them that TP-ing someone's house isn't ok, or egging someone's car, or spray painting someone's wall, or breaking someone's fence or window. If a higher emphasis is placed on family and moral values, and the crimes are stopped early, I don't think we would have such a large problem to deal with.

Sondra Murphy said...

Graffiti is no more complex than any other crime, and one could argue all crime involves issues of race, class, anti-social behavior and poor parenting. I'll agree that gangs add to the problem, but disagree about class. Much graffiti is created by bored and/or intoxicated teenagers, for which there is no class distinction.
Graffiti is both anti-social art and social territorial claim. Annoying at best, it is demoralizing when it happens to you and can be costly to remedy.
I'd like to see some kind of art program developed to offer creative channels to offenders, starting with restitution of damaged property.
As far as readers not wanting to be identified by OVN, Anonymous disproved his/her own claim by posting as such. As a comment it has nothing to do with the subject and weakens the points made.

evan austin said...

i'm glad i came across this post, as it's an issue that i not only care about personally as a member of this community where graffiti and vandalism as a recognized problem, but it's also an issue that i've spent some time thinking about in a larger social context.

Anonymous hints at some good points, and i generally agree that graffiti and vandalism are more complex than boredom and intoxication. i think there ARE race and class issues involved, and fresh off of Martin Luther King day, i'm going to join him in considering them completely intertwined (calm down, Sondra).

beyond that, i'm fond of looking at what needs are being expressed by peoples' actions. i've come to think that perhaps graffiti - and, to a lesser extent, vandalism - is the only voice that these youth perceive themselves to have. we as a culture/society don't do an especially good job of listening to and honoring our youth, particularly the poor, brown ones. so they act out, and every tag could possibly be read as "i'm here, dammit!"

i know, in large measure i'm oversimplifying and generalizing. by no means have i uncovered any transcendent secret or solved a great social ill. but i do like to contribute.

evan austin said...

oh yes, i almost forgot something else i'd like to mention:

in the original post by Lenny Roberts, the final inviting line is "Tell us your thoughts on how vandals should be punished." i have a problem with that, as i see it as a false premise.

let's consider as an option that vandals should NOT be punished. that idea's not likely to be very popular in our society, but i say it to illustrate that perhaps a better choice of words might have been "how vandals could be dealt with".

but wait! there's a dangerous, isolating label in there: VANDAL. surely there's more to someone than something they do or have done. so how bout "how people who commit vandalism could be convinced to stop doing it." there, i've not labeled anyone, and i've left the field of possible resolutions wide open.

too fuzzy? mincing words? fine.
but consider this: labeling people isolates them and removes their autonomy to define themselves, which is a powerful human need. also, we in the United States have an atrocious relationship with crime and punishment, with one of the largest prison populations in the world and chronic human rights abuses brought into the spotlight in recent years by Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and "not so secret" CIA prisons throughout Europe. and yet somehow, we continue to grapple with crimes of all sorts.

seems to me like punishment is not working. seems to me like we could afford to try some restorative justice

Lenny Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lenny Roberts said...

It's somewhat distressing to know that evan austin does not believe in punishing criminals. I am not suggesting flogging or burning someone at the stake. The reality is that there are tens of thousands of dollars in damage done to personal and public property in the city of Ojai each year by hoodlums who deserve to be, yes, punished for their actions. I believe the punishment should include fixing what they destroyed, at their own expense, and, if those convicted persist in defacing or destroying the property of others, spend a little time in jail thinking about it.

evan austin said...

i'd suggest investigation into the terms "deserve" and "punishment".
what's clear to me at this moment is that Lenny is absolutely normal.
by that i mean that our standard, traditional, creativity-free, age-old, rooted-in-systems-of-oppression, hierarchical system says "i am qualified to judge you as worthy or unworthy of something, and if you are unworthy i shall craft some arbitrary and punitive activity for you to do, which you will not enjoy", and that's comfortable to many people.

the point is not severity of punishment ("flogging or burning someone at the stake"), but the concept of punishment itself. it seems abundantly clear that rotting in jail, with all the time in the world to think about what they've done, is not working. if that worked, people would go to jail, think for a bit, and then waltz out as model citizens after realizing of their own volition that what they did really was wrong and that they're horrible for doing it, and really should just get a haircut and a job and be a nice dead person.

at any rate, please be clear that i'm not advocating for a consequence-free society. i will link again (in the hopes that it actually gets read) to the restorative justice model, part of which is about the offender making things right with the victim, as Lenny advocates. if the situation is put right, if the victim feels understood by the offender, and the offender understands what was hurtful to the victim, what remains? what else do we need to do?

the critical voice that's missing from this discussion is those who have done graffiti or committed vandalism. has anyone asked them why they do it? has anyone tried to understand their behaviors and the needs they were trying to meet (albeit unsuccessfully) by doing so?

Anonymous said...

Agreeing with Lenny, we discussed this during city
council campaign. Local police efforts are retroactive, and Bruce Norris admits to being overwhelmed and needing comunity solutions. A multi-million dollar sherrif's budget, yet only two patrol cars on duty in county all night. I see tags on affluent buildings-seeming to state youth feels disenfranchised.
I observe patrol cars hurrying around but never stopping to interact with comunity and
understand issues on the streets. PL

Anonymous said...

Wow, you all are so ignorant. The first problem is that you are saying graffiti and vandalism are the same thing. They are not. If any of you ever get a chance to really look around the Ojai Valley at some of the graffiti that is up, you would notice that it is in fact ART. Or perhaps your only definition of art is an oil painting of the Topa Topas. How boring does that get? A graffiti artist does not paint on a wall to destroy someones property, but to express themselves creatively in a society that allows them only to be artistic in a predefined medium and discourse. Perhaps you should not think of these "vandals" as misfits of the Ojai valley, but as legitimate artists. I would say they are less a threat to the valley than say Starbucks or Jersey Mikes. Ojai has always been a community of artists and free spirits. Why don't you all move to Los Angeles?

evan said...


i can tell that you're upset by the whole subject, and that doesnt sound like it's comfortable for you. i'd like for you to know that being called ignorant and being asked (almost demanded) to move to L.A. doesnt meet my needs for respect or support, and leaves me feeling a bit sad and distressed.

however, thank you for sharing your unique perspective on this topic! i see much value in what you are saying (seriously, how many ways can the topas or the post office tower be painted and photographed?), but only cringe a little at how you're saying it. i hope that we can continue to be respectful of you, and that you'll return with a calmer energy.

Anonymous said...


I do apologize for my demeanor. I do feel very strongly about the issue and it was my first reaction. I mean no harm. However, I do feel at times that many Ojai residents react in the same way to graffiti. They think its a BIG problem...and I think this is a very distorted way to look at it. Perhaps GANG RELATED ACTIVITY is a huge problem, but Graffiti is not. You cant wage war against something when you don't even know what it is you're fighting against.

evan said...

much clearer..thank you! i can appreciate what you're saying a great deal, and i like your insight to separate symptoms from root causes.

i think we could go even deeper, in terms of what is the root cause of "gang related activity".

i think you're right that war cannot be waged against certain things (for example, unknowns or -isms). perhaps another question is "is waging war the only solution?" it works in communities just as it does in international relations.

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