The above picture was taken yesterday morning by the underpass of Oakland Mills Road in Columbia. The tagging had been a problem with this tunnel for a long time and Howard County Parks and Rec’s attempt to have a high school student paint a landscape mural to stop the graffiti appears to have run into a problem with the tagging over the mural. I have read about the gang growth in Columbia but have not seen the evidence except for the tagging.
The issue that I am wondering about is if the tagging by gangs is like the “broken window” theory of how community deterioration begins. The “broken window” theory holds that more serious community issues develop if the first signs are not addressed. A broken window is the first sign that control of the community has shifted to a criminal element. If it is not addressed it escalates to more serious crimes. Allowing tagging to stay in place can have more serious consequences. The efforts of CA and private business owners to remove the tagging are critical. I have seen how CA has tried to keep up with removal of these signs.
The following comes from a Columbia Patch article from 2010 and is the best accounting of this issue
“They are Crips and Bloods and Vatos Locos, among others. They are gangs and gang members in Howard County. They are in villages, in schools, in the mall. They, in total, are an estimated 500 gang members living, working and passing through the county each day, according to the Howard County Police Department.
They are not new news to local police. But to some area residents, learning who these gangs and gang members are – and where they are – can be an eye-opening experience. "How many of you have observed gang members in the county?" asked Sgt. Dave Trapani, the police department's gang and intelligence supervisor. Only a couple of people raised their hands. "How many of you shop at the Columbia Mall on a Friday or Saturday evening?" Trapani asked. "How many of you shop in village centers in evenings, walk on the Savage Trail in summertime? Chances are you've been in the presence of gang members or associates."
Trapani runs through names that sound as if they should be headlining music festivals, not selling drugs and committing other crimes:Pasadena Denver Lanes. Tree Top Puri. Bounty Hunter Bloods. Redstone Riders. Purple City Byrd Gang. These are all local sets of the nationally known gang called the Bloods. Combined, they are Howard County's largest gang. That doesn't mean they get along with each other. "These are drug crews. They're in competition with each other," Trapani said. "If there's a buck involved, if there's something to do with testosterone, they're going to have a beef with each other." The police sergeant runs through identifying characteristics of the Bloods and members of other gangs: clothing colors, tattoos, graffiti, hand signals. "Go to Columbia Mall … you'll see kids in there spelling out gang signs," he said."Members of the criminal element are joining gangs," he said. "That's for market share, for protection, for all sorts of reasons. The criminals are still criminals. They would've been there anyway." In 2009, gang members in Howard County were involved in attempted murder, robbery, weapons violations, thefts, burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, assaults and drug distribution, Trapani said.”