Do murals and other pieces of art start the revitalization of an area that is full of empty storefronts and vacant lots? Does it counter the existence of widespread illicit drug sales and prostitution and restore the quality of life for area residents? If you read a recent article by former Sacramento Press editor, Allison Joy, you would think the answer is “yes”, but if you see the reality of life in the area around the featured location, the situation would produce a different answer.
If the photographer who shot the picture of the art work had pulled back and took a wider shot of the location, it would show that the mural find faces out on a vacant lot where there used to be a convenience store and gas station. Around the corner from it, opposite the Arden-Del Paso light rail station, you would find a series of empty former businesses. Heading up Del Paso toward El Camino Avenue, you would find several other vacant business locations.
Knowing the standard that Allison held contributing writers, including myself, to as an editor, it was hard to not question why the piece was such a soft, unquestioning article. It would have been a great opportunity to discuss the real needs of the neighborhood to rebound from many years of neglect and abandonment by city officials and business owners as well as neighborhood apathy.
One of the first pieces I wrote when I signed on as a contributing writer for the Sacramento Press was about the real reason behind the closing of the school at St. Josephs Catholic Church—the increase in drug and prostitution activity in the nearby neighborhood which includes the area in the Comstocks Magazine article.
This activity continues to this day. Taking a few minutes on the RAIDS (Regional Analysis and Information Sharing crime mapping site) shows the extent of the drug activity in the area as well as other illicit activity. A couple side notes here: prostitution activity is not specifically listed as one of the criminal events mapped on the system and the incidents are limited to those involving police contact. It is not illogical to assume that the amount of unreported activity is even greater.
The answer to bringing back the neighborhood is to create jobs and to start a crackdown on the criminal activity not to go all ‘gushy’ over painted slogans on walls. Redemption lies in action not words!