You know what bothers me most about this burst of criminal activity? The reactions to it that I'm reading on Facebook.
One person blamed "the Mexicans" for the graffiti. Really? You think we have a Mexican gang named the Warriors? I'm guessing they'd be more likely to call themselves "Guerreros." Or maybe the idea is that the mere proximity of the Mexican community can give English-speaking teens the urge to tag any blank surface in their neighborhoods--sort of like marking their territory?
Another (whose house had been sprayed) implied having too many poor people in town was to blame. The poor folks I know, and their families, are too busy trying to put food on the table and pay bills to spend good money on spray paint and go into better neighborhoods to tag houses. Same person believed homeowners were being targeted. If that's true, then the logical law-enforcement thing to do is look for someone in that same neighborhood with a grudge against the victims, not to cast a wide blanket of suspicion on anyone who isn't a homeowner.
Another, someone named Freddie Hill, said that Norristown was a cesspool and the whole place should be burned down. Now, I was saying just the other day how much you'd hear talk like this a year ago, but not so much anymore. When you do hear it, it's never coming from anyone who lives here. Freddie Hill is apparently proud enough of Norristown to call it his hometown on Facebook, but he's chosen to leave and live somewhere else--somewhere apparently so wonderful that it allows him to feel superior to us poor Norristonians left behind. The reason his opinion isn't relevant? Because now that he's not here, his opinion is his problem, not ours.
Same for the person who also left, but said he constantly worries about the safety of his friends who live here. As if, once you cross the Dannehower Bridge, you've entered a war zone equivalent to Kandahar.
The best, most sane reaction I read today was from Shae Ashe of The Norristown Project, who said that any homeowner could contact him at email@example.com and he'd come and clean off the graffiti. Shae knows that the sooner the graffiti is removed, the less likely the wall will be tagged again. He also knows that action is better than angst. A lesson we could all learn.
Do you get it? We don't have to react to every problem like Chicken Little--flying off the handle, blaming every scapegoat we can find, spreading exaggerated negative opinions of Norristown until everyone in the surrounding 'burbs is ready to fence us off from the world. Negativity begets more negativity. Panic begets panic. Fear begets fear. In our reactions, we're letting our town be held hostage by a handful of out-of-control teens.
If you see gang activity in your neighborhood, call the police. If ANY crime happens in your neighborhood, report it to the police promptly, even if you think someone else already did. The more calls they get, the more they'll see that we don't intend to simply lay back and be victimized.
If the police don't handle it, contact ALL the members of council, not just your rep. If the police aren't doing their jobs, it's up to us to put pressure on our government to see that changes take place.
Otherwise, THINK before you react. What you say can do Norristown more harm than the crime that prompted your comment.