On the night of Friday, Jan. 7, manager Karen Evans closed up A Total Difference salon. Evans said she wasn't expecting to see cars and teenagers across the street, outside of the Carrollton Bank on Schroeder Avenue.
The following morning, spray painted graffiti covered the back and side of the salon. A nearby fence and sign were also covered. The salon, a Belair Road fixture for the past 15 years, has been tagged in at least three separate incidents, Evans said.
The building owner now plans to install surveillance cameras.
"I was upset because I knew that the owner had just painted the building," she said. "You have to use a specially mixed paint—I'm sure it's rather expensive."
Graffiti is a growing problem in Perry Hall, said Capt. Michael Balog of the White Marsh police precinct.
From Schroeder Avenue to Cowenton Avenue, along Belair Road and Ebenezer Road, taggers strike businesses, churches, street signs, utility poles and sometimes even homes.
Police officers are working hard to root out the problem, said Balog, but they need the help of residents and business owners to identify suspects.
"If you see a group of kids late at night, call us," he said, adding that taggers often carry backpacks and gather behind businesses.
Officer Edward Borman of the Parkville police precinct is the region's leading expert on graffiti crimes. Over the past nine years, he has investigated hundreds of cases.
It's highly unlikely that Perry Hall's graffiti problem is associated with gangs, said Borman. Even when gang symbols appear, they're usually the work of local teen "wannabes," he said.
Graffiti tends to hit a community in spurts, he said, though, for unknown reasons, it's most prevalent in the winter. "Logic would dictate the opposite since it is an outdoor crime," said Borman. "Numbers always seem to go up in December and January."
He's optimistic that Perry Hall businesses can beat the problem, but only if they take an active role in cleaning it up.
"It's been shown over and over that the best way to combat the problem is to get it down as soon as it goes up," he said. "If the business community attacks the problem aggressively, I'm sure they can beat it."
When taggers strike a business, or any other piece of private property, it is the property owners' responsibility to clean it up, said Ellen Kobler, a spokesperson for Baltimore County government.
"The county does not have a program to remove it from private property," said Kobler. Property owners should consult with their insurance companies for assistance, she said.
A June 2010 article in the Baltimore County Police Department's Business Beat newsletter listed several ways that business owners could combat graffiti vandalism, including:
- Keep the area around the business neat, clean, well-maintained and well-lit.
- Call 911 immediately after vandals strike and take photographs of the damaged area for insurance purposes.
- Remove graffiti within 24 to 48 hours of the incident. This sends a no tolerance message to the vandals and the community.
- Plant shrubs and thorny plants near walls.
- Keep dumpsters away from buildings, as vandals often use them as ladders to get onto buildings, and cover drainpipes, which are also used as ladders.
- Install surveillance cameras outside of your business.
- Use graffiti resistant paints or coatings.
Editor's Note: More photos of graffiti were not included in this story in an effort to avoid giving undue publicity to the work of graffiti vandals and taggers.