By Rogelio Montaño
Graffiti. You see it everywhere. Though it at times can be used as a creative outlet for expression, it is mostly considered outright vandalism — especially if sprayed on abandoned or homes that are for sale.
At least one, if not more, abandoned and vandalized homes can be found in any neighborhood in the Eastern Coachella Valley. But exactly what is the problem? Is it that it’s so common to see vandalism while cruising around, or that we are just as used to seeing an abandoned or foreclosed home?
To investigate, a visit to one of these homes was in order. It wasn’t hard to find one. A simple drive down the street was all it took to see a garage door with black spray paint blatantly displayed. The act of vandalism seemed to be quite recent. According to a neighbor, who refused to give his name, the graffiti had just appeared that morning. The blue, two-story home is assumed to have been foreclosed on because of the FOR SALE sign sprawled across the dry and unattended front yard. The anonymous neighbor mentioned that the previous owners of the house had moved just a week ago.
When asked if vandalism is a big issue for him, he said he doesn’t mind “as long as they don’t touch my house.”
“It’s the younger generation,” he said. “There’s less respect.”
Concerning the matter of the safety in the neighborhood, he said, “They don’t intimidate me.”
This comment brought my attention to the neighborhood surrounding the home. I noticed that it was a nice, well-kept neighborhood in which the lawns were trimmed and the gardens decorated with flowers. There were even kids playing outside on the street. I could tell that others shared his sentiment that vandalism isn’t that big of a problem and just ignore it.
A couple streets over, I discovered another vandalized home. The windows were not only spray-painted, but the light fixtures outside of the home were stolen. The wiring was sticking out of cut open squares on the front of the house. The condition of the home suggested it had been abandoned for a long period of time.
Yet that wasn’t the end of my search for vandalized homes, as I found one more in front of the house development’s main park and playground area. It was a real eyesore as its garage and windows weren’t just vandalized, but the weeds on the front yard were so unkempt that it was spreading over the walkway to the entrance of the house. Not only that, but it seemed to have been a frequent victim of vandalism. Upon closer observation, I could see that city workers have added many layers of paint to cover the graffiti.
All these homes, I found, had similar traits: number-coded locks, extremely unattended to lawns, FOR SALE signs — and neighbors that want nothing to do with them.
I wish it weren’t the case, but vandalized and abandoned homes are not a rarity in my community.