Monday, November 14, 2016

Cleaning Up Crime in N-Town

In September and October, I participated in Norristown's first Citizen's Police Academy. I signed up for 2 reasons. As a resident, I wanted to know more about the NPD and what they're currently doing to reduce crime in our community. And, well, no self-respecting mystery writer turns down a golden opportunity to do research by hanging out with cops. I've gone to workshops and seminars before on the subject, but I learned more in the last 10 weeks than I did in the last 20 years as a writer and in my lifetime as a Norristown resident.

I want to share some of what I learned in a few Diary entries. I'm going to begin with graffiti. Most residents consider it a nuisance more than anything~something kids do when they're bored. I'm guessing many cases aren't even reported, especially those on empty or public properties, or in out-of-the-way areas not visible from the street. A lot of it is never cleaned off. But let me tell you how dealing more effectively with graffiti might help us reduce more serious crimes.
The map shows 34 reported cases of vandalism in Norristown in the last month (per We had 6 reported cases last week. In both time frames, the incidents were reported all over town, and pretty much on any day, at any time. Now, vandalism doesn't necessarily mean graffiti. Any kind of willful destruction of property~slashing tires, breaking windows without entering, etc~is also vandalism, but graffiti is the most common form here.

Graffiti isn't always harmless tags done by bored teens. Much of it is gang-related, and not only teenaged gangs. We have some serious adult gangs in N-town as well as school gangs. The Los Angeles Police Department has this on their webpage:

"The purpose of gang graffiti is to glorify the gang. Gang graffiti is meant to create a sense of intimidation and may increase the sense of fear within a neighborhood. Gang members use graffiti to mark their territory or turf, declare their allegiance to the gang, advertise a gang’s status or power, and to challenge rivals. Graffiti is used to communicate messages between gangs using codes with common meaning."

Not cleaning gang graffiti off a wall is bad for your neighborhood. It invites not only more graffiti, but possibly more drug activity and maybe gang violence as well. As the LAPD goes on to say "A rival gang identifies everyone in a neighborhood [with gang graffiti] as a potential threat."

Example of gang graffiti
Officers in our NPD, though, know how to read gang graffiti. By reporting graffiti to them, they can track gang activity around town. In fact, graffiti can be a useful tool for them. And here's the best part, they'll help you remove it for FREE, because the faster it's cleaned, the safer the neighborhood.

What should you do if you find a tag on your property? Call 911. You might ask, "Isn't 911 only for emergencies? Is graffiti an emergency?" By calling 911, you create a report for the incident, which lets the NPD map where they occur. An officer might not be able to come right out, but when they're done with higher priority calls, someone will come. The officer will take photos of the graffiti and if it's on a surface that can be power-washed, they'll send someone to clean it off for you if you want (after you sign a waiver).

If you'd rather do it yourself, that's okay, but you have a set amount of time to remove the graffiti before you get fined. You can also contact Shea Ashe at The Norristown Project for help at  If you pay for the cleaning/paint supplies, TNP will help with graffiti removal.

What if you see other graffiti around town, especially on public buildings or empty houses, but even on the property of a neighbor who hasn't reported it? The trash can above, for instance isn't on private property, yet it does have gang graffiti, which you definitely don't want in your neighborhood. If you have a smartphone, you can easily let the NPD know about it. Simply take a photo of the graffiti and send it to the police tipline at 610-278-TIPS. Tell them the address so they can find it. Even if you don't have a camera or smartphone, call and report it. If it's gang graffiti, the NPD will remove it.

By cleaning up the graffiti around town, we'll not only make our community look better, but help reduce gang activity and other crimes. But Norristown cops can't do this alone. They want to work with residents and business owners. If we all meet them halfway, we can have a better community.

1 comment:

  1. It might not help with the overall problem but maybe if you can find areas where some type of fencing type murals can be set up and those with talent of various ages can cover up a eyesore and maybe a prize or internship can be offered ..first start out with a indoor project to see who is interested