2017-11-15 / Editorial

Stepping up to make a difference

Graffiti has plagued the tunnels along the Polly Ann Trail near the Vlasic pickle plant in Imlay City for some time, defacing what is otherwise a wonderful gateway access point to the beautiful trail system.

The vandalism particularly irked Imlay City Police Chief Scott Pike who didn’t want children on the way to school to have to look at spray-painted vulgarity in the tunnels. He posted a message on social media about his disappointment to find eight-foot tall phallic symbols and obscenities on the tunnel walls, which prompted a response by John Thompson, the youth outreach director at Gateway Assembly.

Thompson and his group volunteered to paint murals on the four walls of the two tunnels along the trail.

Being that the trail is on public property, Chief Scott said his only condition was that the designs had to be secular in content.

Thompson and the youth volunteers were out in force Saturday morning, despite the chilly temperatures, to paint a base coat over the graffiti and started their murals centered around the theme “If we can come together, the world can be a better place.”

Indeed. There’s certainly truth to the uplifting message, and now thanks to the generosity of Gateway Assembly who paid for the paint supplies and put in the time and heart into the project by area youth the Polly Ann Trail tunnels sport a fresh, positive message and artistry where once obscenities had begun to take hold.

But that wasn’t going to happen on the watch of Chief Pike and the people at Gateway Assembly who stepped up to intervene and were not going to let their beloved town be defaced by obscene graffiti. They knew if the graffiti wasn’t removed, more would likely occur elsewhere in the Imlay City area if the culprits were to become emboldened by its continued presence.

Chief Pike’s frustration was well-founded. Even in a small city where the sense of community is strong and binding, nobody wants to risk the spread of graffiti and random vandalism if the situation isn’t nipped in the bud. Criminologists call this the “Broken Window Syndrome” which suggests when communities don’t address blighted buildings with broken windows — or spray-painted graffiti — that it encourages subsequent occurrences.

We commend Pike and the Imlay City Commission for their proactive measures to curtail further vandalism in the city — particularly on the Polly Ann Trail heavily used by children going to and from school as well as by area families who enjoy the trail’s recreational opportunities. Earlier this year the commission authorized payment to DTE Energy to install LED lighting along the trail.

To help improve safety and to deter further vandalism, Chief Pike installed motion-activated game cameras along the trail. The cameras include technology that instantly sends still photos directly to cell phones and computers of the Imlay City Police Dept., greatly increasing the odds that an officer can respond in short order and possibly catch someone in the act of defacing the tunnels and help with prosecution.

Volunteers at Gateway Assembly also offered to cut back some underbrush that encroached onto the trail that not only made it unsightly, but also increased safety concerns that the brush could obscure someone hiding along the paved trail.

The addition of four colorful and inspirational murals, coupled with the added security features that include better lighting and camera surveillance the Polly Ann Trail tunnels and their approaches are now a much more attractive and inviting feature to Imlay City.

Kudos to everyone who made this happen.

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