Ray K. Erku Times editor

Ray K. Erku

Times editor

At least try to make it artistic. At least try to emulate something remotely close to a masterpiece.

Over the past six months or so, the community of Rawlins has had to endure an invasion. No, in this particular case it isn’t novel coronavirus. Instead, it’s something a bit more tangible.

Possessed by the whims of their own desire to garner petty stardom, pseudo-graffiti artists have managed to “tag” various businesses, museums and cherished murals in Rawlins. And we’re not talking about work worthy of a Guggenheim exhibit. This is, for lack of a better term, absolute trash.

Squiggly, serpentine lines that harshly read “East Side” and “West Side” on the south wall of the Bank of the West, a beautiful Greek Revival-esque building near downtown. On a couple of outdoor paintings at Depot Park, crude, indiscernible scribbles that desecrate something that used to shine with Western culture and pride. A couple walls down from that, more terrible, terrible graffiti.

Early last month, the old guard’s quarters at the historic Wyoming Frontier Prison, otherwise known as the “Old Pen,” sustained damage after vandals broke into the place. In late March, some cheeky fool decided to hurl a couple eggs at the Wayne Martinez mural, a gigantic depiction of the Virgin Mary painted on a support beam underneath an overpass on the city’s south side. Back in 1997, Martinez was working as a correctional officer at the Wyoming State Penitentiary when he was slain by an inmate during an escape attempt.

As if that’s not enough to break out the pitchforks and torches, this past week endured another hardship of petty miscreance: The Martinez mural was again vandalized. This time, however, the culprit decided to leave mommy’s egg carton alone and go straight to the spray paint can. By the time the suspect was finished, the Virgin Mary had a male appendage crudely sprayed on her.

With that, this series of sabotage has obviously turned into an ongoing theme. And yes, not to denigrate the efforts of local authorities, apprehension has occurred after the fact. But as a law enforcer, however, how would you go about trying to nip this in the bud before further damage ensues? How do you say, “Hey, buddy, try that again and you’d wish you’d hadn’t?”

The same questions can easily be directed toward city hall. As a council, how do you stop this kind of hooliganism from happening? Another question. Some of these “tags” littered throughout the city of Rawlins are still in fact there, as if a big F-you in broad daylight. Why for goodness’ sakes hasn’t somebody taken a paint brush to them?

But back to trying to answer the first question. Although it may cost a pretty penny and some residents may argue it’s a breach of privacy, I think it’s time the city begins entertaining the notion of installing security cameras around a few municipal “hot spots.” To think that the city and its police department are being outwitted by a bunch of kids is almost unfathomable.

Moreover, ask any code enforcement officer in the country. Graffiti, dilapidated properties, vandalism… those are things that are not only going to depreciate property value, they also have the terrible power to dissuade prospective businesses from moving into the community. Simple as that.

As a potential spender of money, people want a city that actually takes care of its assets. And right now, that simply does not seem to be the case. If we’re going to want to redeem ourselves financially from this awful global pandemic, it’s going to take a bit more elbow grease and basic intuition.

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