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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Old guy's hobby

The Portland police have busted a man for spray-painting graffiti around the city's inner east side. They caught the fellow red-handed in the Buckman neighborhood a while back.

Not news, you say? Read on. The suspect, Ronald Engman, is no ordinary tagger. Not only is he 63 years old, but he's also got an unusual motivation for his vandalism: his own hatred of other people's graffiti.

Engman is allegedly the guy who has been painting thick silver circles on top of other tags that vandals have left on walls around town. It seems he despises the tags, and is defacing the graffiti as a way of fighting back against the taggers. "He has always fought against graffiti," his wife, JoAnn, told The Oregonian. "He even caught a guy once."

I feel for the "Silver Circle." He's sick and he did a bad thing, but I second his emotion.

I loathe graffiti, too, and as long-time readers of this blog know, I kill an hour or two a month removing it and covering it up on street signs, dumpsters, mailboxes, and other exposed surfaces in my neighborhood. Over the years, I've grown less bitter toward the individuals who come out at night like cockroaches and write on other people's property. But it gives me great satisfaction to take down their handiwork almost as fast as they put it up. My goal (largely achieved most of the time) is to leave the surface looking the way it did before the graffitists struck.

Of course, the "silver donuts" that Engman has allegedly been drawing aren't as benign as my cleanup actions. The circles do blot out the taggers' message, which is a help of sorts, but they multiply the ugliness and visual blight. Plus apparently he uses a nasty paint that's harder to remove than some of the tags -- I can relate to frustration with that.

It will be interesting to see what a judge decides is a fit punishment for this guy, if he pleads or is found guilty. Probably graffiti cleanup duty, which for a tag-hater like Engman shouldn't be that bad at all. Heck, I'd even volunteer to go out with him for a couple of hours as he works off his debt to society.

Meanwhile, if the city really wants to bust some taggers, maybe they ought to send somebody under cover to this.

Comments (2)

The first long research paper I ever wrote was a 22-pager in 10th grade on the history of graffiti. "Art or Crime?" I think I titled it. While I am not pro-tagging, I am pro-mural! Cities should have more creative murals than billboard advertising if you ask me.

Come to think of it, I think I'd rather look at tagging than most billboards; I consider the fact that I have look at a huge looming shot of the Coors twins each day as I drive into town much more offensive. Isn't it funny how the public at large doesn't get to choose whether we want to look at either graffiti or billboard advertising, yet while one is considered bad and illegal, the other is seen as quite legitimate and mostly unquestioned?

I'm with you. But the answer is to question (and ban wherever possible) the advertising, not sanction the graffiti.

I love murals. Even some of the more tasteful ad murals are a delight in my book. Sadly, the taggers these days will deface even community-friendly, legal murals.


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» Who is the "Silver Circle" graffiti artist? from From out of No where
It's my grandpa! Can you believe it? I just got the news yesterday and could not stop laughing for almost an hour. If you knew my grandpa, you would understand. [Read More]

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