Many buildings with decades-old brick and mortar have been subjected to attack by spray paint — while other surfaces, from the state park to underpasses on Harbor Island, are marked to the point of visual annoyance.
Foolishly, the perpetrator has even taunted police with insulting slang, and encourages them to "catch me" and "stop me." Please understand, "freebird," the police want — at the very least — to do both to you.
While other municipalities across the country suffer far more from the stain of graffiti, those communities have also taken action to limit the effects of the crime. Many have imposed guidelines that the victims of graffiti must follow. The business or homeowner is usually allowed several days to remove the graffiti from his or her property, but must do so or face fines and other legal action. This is done in an attempt to lessen the chances of additional graffiti on the same site.
The city of Grand Haven has a little-known ordinance requiring victims to remove graffiti from their private property, but the city prefers to work with the property owner toward a solution rather than enact the ordinance or fines. The city also has to use taxpayer dollars to remove graffiti from city-owned property.
While several attacks have been on the same structure, and painted over by the property owner, many locations of the graffiti remain visible as the busy summer tourist season approaches.
Oddly absent as a deterrent has been a reward for information leading to an arrest of “freebird.” Sources, public and private, should consider ponying up the money for such a reward. A substantial reward would place pressure on those individuals responsible for this crime.
It is possible, by putting the graffiti issue in more of a public spotlight, that people will become vigilant to the problem and report suspicious activity they may observe. It is hard to imagine that it goes undetected when someone stands in an open area for the length of time it takes to create some of the more elaborate graffiti.
It is time to take away the spray paint and get little "freebird" back in his or her cage. Public safety officials have more important services to provide the city then chasing down this kind of nuisance.
Our community needs to spend less time covering up the graffiti and more time uncovering the identity of those responsible for it.