I read a story last night about a guy who went into his local Costco and added fake price signs like "Vinyl Dungeon Restraint System $164.99" without getting caught. It inspired him to make more of these little, easily duplicated signs and send them out to friends around the country, so they could prank their Costco stores, as well. Within a few months, Costco stores around the country had signs for "Goat Balls $7.59" and "Polo Chaps Assless $119.99."
Marvelous! I have been smiling about this for hours. But with that good feeling comes one of melancholy. Living in Trenton has drained me of my creative mischief, and that makes me sad. The story of the Costco prank came at a good time, though, because I've been trying to think of non-police, non-annoying group ways of throwing a wrench into the plans and activities of the bad guys in the city. There is a place for the police, and groups do serve a purpose, absolutely. But there must be so many things that people like me — that is, relatively antisocial noncriminal types — can do to fight crime, without resorting to calling the police, or, god forbid, joining a group.
For instance, some places have resorted to playing loud music in high crime areas. Not hip-hop, in case you're wondering. Even the baddest of the bad seems be annoyed by loud opera music, a tactic used by folks in Belltown, a low income area outside of Seattle, with some success. The thought is that opera is annoying enough to drive criminals away, but not so annoying that it will offend the general population. In Australia, officials are piping in Barry Manilow to encourage criminals to think twice about conducting business in some spots. So, the use of music is an easy and free way to help deter crime, without involving the police or a civic association.
I've been reading about the mayoral and council debates; I've read many essays submitted to Beautiful Trenton. It is all well-intended, but much of it either lacks specifics, or is so high-minded that it lacks practicality. There are small, specific things we (that includes you more social sorts!) can do to help our city improve.* So, I am calling on you to brainstorm with me.* Maybe you think I should think of my own pranks and leave you out of it? I suppose I could. But I need your help because my brain has atrophied in the last few months due to life with Curious George and Bob the Builder and cleaning up Cheerios, and I'm hoping you'll sympathize. Additionally, I realize you might be tired of submitting your thoughts about Trenton right about now, but I can assure you that this exercise will have useful techniques you can use right away, and the results should be fun. You won't even have to leave your comfy chair. You won't have to get up from your computer. Think about it. Okay?
If you have an idea, send me an email or leave a comment here on this entry, and hopefully we can discuss this in the near future. Thanks!
* Now, I wouldn't advocate annoying very dangerous criminals; I realize it can be difficult to figure that stuff out. But, if you're like me, and have been living in your neighborhood for a few years, you probably have a sense of just how bad your bad guys are. Maybe they're bad enough to sell drugs right in front of your neighbor's toddler, but not bad enough to kill you if you spread bird seed near their car that just so happens to be parked next to your house, perhaps?