Honolulu is a patch-painted city. Everywhere you go, on the highway overpasses, retaining walls, bridges and utility boxes, there are sections of mismatched paint put there to cover up some unreadable scrawl of graffiti.
There are too many of these patches to count. After a while it’s as though people’s eyes get used to all the visual noise and no longer see it. Maybe they choose to ignore it.
There’s a lot more to try to ignore lately.
One man whose property fell victim to the vandalism took it upon himself to start documenting the fresh blight and keep a tally. He took pictures around his neighborhood when he walked his dog and then kept going, driving around Honolulu to take stock of the damage and take photos of the same tag, the vandal’s signature, appearing again and again all over town.
So far, he has counted 87 of these same tags from Sandy Beach to Nuuanu in just the last several months.
“It’s like there are raids everywhere,” he said. “Like locusts descended on the city.”
He didn’t want his name in a newspaper article for fear of retaliation. He already spent $200 on paint and painting supplies to cover up the damage on his property.
“That’s a lot of money for the average person right now,” he said.
The photos he has taken show the letters “SLOBR” or “SLOBER” spray-painted on walls along Kalanianaole Highway, on schools, on park facilities, work trucks, bridges and businesses. Some of the vandalism is signed with the words “COVID 5 gang.” Some include taunts to the community, like “haha” and the time that the vandals were there.
The victim doesn’t think it’s a bunch of kids out of school with time on their hands. He believes the responsible party is a young man in his 20s aided by his group of friends.
“I don’t think it’s middle school kids writing their names on the bathroom walls,” he said. Neither does he think it’s a professional making an artistic statement.
“This is nothing like what you see on the murals in Kakaako. It’s really ugly.”
He has given his suspect’s name to the police and says the person was questioned but denied involvement.
Honolulu City Councilman Tommy Waters, who represents East Honolulu, said his office is aware of the situation and has also been in contact with HPD to ensure a full investigation is being conducted.
“All of these actions demonstrate a complete lack of aloha by diverting city resources away from local families that need them most right now,” Waters said in an email.
The HPD crime map shows that in the last six months, there have been an average of 200 reports of graffiti in the Honolulu area each month. During March and April the number of reported cases has gone up, not down, as you might expect with everybody in lockdown. In March there were 277 reports of graffiti in Honolulu. In April that number was 240.
So here’s where we are: Perhaps someone with security video will help catch those responsible. Perhaps someone will see them and get good photo evidence.
Perhaps someone will notice them buying a lot of paint.
Or perhaps it will just stop as we emerge from our hideouts and start looking around.
If you do spot new graffiti, you can call the city’s graffiti removal hotline at 723-3475 or call 911 to make a police report.