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Graffiti message on Victoria street: 'Kill Obama'

By Gheni_Platenburg
May 26, 2010 at 12:26 a.m.

Graffiti with a message aimed at President Obama was spray-painted on sections of Nursery Drive near Spring Creek.

TO HELP

To report graffiti in your area, please call 361-485-3808.

LAW ON THREATS

The federal statute that makes it a crime to threaten the President is 18 U.S. Code § 871(a).

The law provides as follows:

Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits for conveyance in the mail or for a delivery from any post office or by any letter carrier any letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States. . . shall be fined . . . or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Rather than voice their opinions about the president on Facebook or via a letter to the editor, a vandal chose to deface Nursery Drive with anti-Obama graffiti.

"I think it's a shame. Somebody needs to clean it up," Don Polzin, executive director of Gulf Bend Center, one of several businesses near the graffiti, said Wednesday. "It's disrespectful to our president and disrespectful to his position."

He continued, "We're kindly asking the city to come clean it up."

The graffiti is located in several places along the entire stretch of roadway. One message says to "Kill Obama." Others call him a communist and a liar.

Area businesses gave different accounts of when they first noticed the graffiti, making it impossible to pinpoint exactly when it first appeared. However, their timeline ranged from eight to two months ago.

Melissa Perez, 34, said it appeared the perpetrator has been periodically refreshing the graffiti as it has worn away, the most recent refreshment being around two weeks ago.

However, she said, she has not heard many complaints about it from fellow staff or clients.

"I haven't heard one comment," said Perez, who works at Victoria ENT Associates. "It just doesn't look nice."

Victoria Police Department records for the last month showed only one complaint had been made about the graffiti on Nursery Drive.

O.C. Garza, communications director for the city of Victoria, said the city is taking steps to get rid of the graffiti.

"Contact has been made between Public Works and our liaison with the Victoria Police Department," said Garza.

He said the city would likely use its new graffiti abatement program to get rid of the vandalism, which means enlisting the help of the Victoria County Adult Probation Department.

"Once they have a chance to determine how best to clean it up, they may use the adult probationers to clean it."

Because no arrests have been made for the crime, residents can only speculate whether the placement of the Obama-related graffiti near medical facilities had anything to do with the recent healthcare debate.

"They must've been trying to prove a point," said 63-year-old Victoria resident, Barbara Matthews. "Regardless of how you feel, I don't think you should be putting graffiti anywhere. It's damaging."

Victoria Police Sgt. Felix Appelt said although an adult could have committed the crime, the perpetrators were most likely juveniles.

"My guess is kids are doing it," said Appelt. "I'm betting its kids who live in the neighborhood and are close enough to walk to the area late at night."

He said the fact the graffiti was put on the street instead of on a fence or a building did not have any major significance.

"You get gang tagging and stuff like that in a street," said Appelt. "They are just going to put it where it can be seen."

Many area businesses voiced concern over the graffiti's presence.

"We try to keep things appealing to the eye and very pretty," said Warm Springs Rehabilitation System spokeswoman Shawn Todd about her company's property. "This creates an eyesore."

She added, "I just think it's ignorant."

David Way, director of Operations for Gulf Bend Center, said he reported the roadway graffiti to Keep Victoria Beautiful in hopes of getting it removed.

"It's not a pleasant thing to see," he said.

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