The city of Merced spares no feelings when it comes to describing the mess that abandoned, nuisance cars cause the community. Such scourge tends to: "reduce the value of private property, to promote blight and deterioration, to invite plundering, to create fire hazards, to constitute an attractive nuisance creating a hazard to the health and safety of minors, to create a harborage for rodents and insects, to be injurious to the health, safety, and general welfare," according to the local ordinances.
That's why the city bans keeping abandoned, wrecked, dismantled and inoperative vehicles -- or, no joke, "parts thereof" -- on private or public property.
But sometimes -- no matter the best efforts of Mercedians trying to solve a problem -- events overtake solutions before they can kick in and last. Tagging and graffiti are events that seem to outstrip business owners' earnest efforts to stay ahead of the paint.
Since I started this column a few weeks back, I've received the same call from a number of concerned citizens: go check out the "abandoned, nasty U-Haul" parked in front of the Save Mart at Olive Avenue and G Street.
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After a short walk to said truck, the problem became apparent: Multicolored graffiti covers all sides of the rear storage bed. Plus, the front driver's side window has been busted out.
I called Mike Conway, spokesman for the city of Merced, to see what was up. He sent a city code enforcement officer to the scene.
After a short investigation, the officer found that the vehicle is operable and is registered -- so it can't be considered abandoned.
The Mattress Store, which operates a store front in the shopping center, owns the truck. The code enforcement officers also told Conway that it's an issue the business owner is well aware of.
"The guy has had it fixed up and then it has been tagged again," Conway said. "It is an ongoing problem that he is facing, and it is part of the ongoing graffiti problem here."
I spoke with the store's owner, Mark Blake, Wednesday afternoon. Blake said the continued graffiti was frustrating, and that he'd turned in a claim for the broken window to his insurance company.
Blake said he was reluctant to move the truck from its parking spot on Olive because it's supposed to attract customers to his business on the other side of the lot. He uses the same truck-as-billboard setup at his Atwater location with no problems, Blake noted.
"I'm not sure what more we could do," Blake said, explaining that he pays someone $40 every two weeks to clean the truck. "You can drive all over town, there's graffiti everywhere. You clean it up and it's right back up there."
This is one of those urban problems where the responsibility for a solution falls squarely on irresponsible people who caused the problem in the first place. And far from stepping up to help, they just return to the scene of the crime and do it again.
To report incidents of graffiti anywhere in the city, call the Merced Police Department's main line at (209) 385-6905.
What's wrong: A Mattress Store delivery truck parked at Olive and G is an unsightly mess.
Who's at fault: Taggers and vandals.
What's being done: The owner tries to stay one step ahead of the graffiti vandals, to no avail.
Tip off the tip list!
If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Danielle E. Gaines, with your tips at (209) 385-2477 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.