City Offers Cash for Turning in Vandals

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Dec 28, 2010  |  Updated 3:30 PM PDT
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City Offers Cash for Turning in Vandals

Unable to police its own streets, the city has essentially thrown up its hands and demanded of citizens, "fine, then, YOU do it."

The Department of Public Works has been issuing $250 cash incentives to residents who catch vandals in the act. But more is required than just a simple report to 311: your tip must result in prosecution, and you'll need to set aside a chunk of time to deal with the legal proceedings.

It's rare that the program actually pays out. This year, only five people will get checks from the DPW.

In one case, a resident shadowed a group of vandals down Mission Street and surreptitiously signaled the police. In another case, a neighbor called the police when they saw someone spray-painting a truck.

The recent years, the city's grown more aggressive about painting over defaced public property. But that's just forced the graffiti onto private property. The city spent $20 million on graffiti abatement each year.

There was an explosion of outrage last week when a popular mural on Divisadero seemed to be vandalized. The original work depicted kittens shooting lasers out of their eyes, but residents awoke to discover two massive bull heads spray painted on top. After a brief freak-out, it was revealed that the owners of the mural simply wanted a change of scenery, but by then, tempers had risen so high that they simply painted over the entire thing with white to give everyone a chance to simmer down. Within a few days, the blank wall was filled with ugly, amateurish tags.

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