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“It’s a small issue, but one that doesn’t seem to have a solution.”

by Prince Of Petworth October 27, 2016 at 1:40 pm 22 Comments

10th and Otis Pl, NW

“Dear PoPville,

In hopes of keeping our neighborhood clean in Columbia Heights, a lot of us do our best to report graffiti vandalism to 311 as quick as possible to discourage other vandals. Truthfully, the city does an outstanding job of getting it removed very fast when it is on public property as well as private property.

There is one area that seems to be a bit of a problem though. While they have become harder to find over the years, many of our neighborhoods (thankfully) still have some blue USPS mail boxes around. The one in our neighborhood, like a lot around the city, are frequently tagged, stickered, and vandalized.

I’ve called 311 to report it, but they never really seem to know what to do with the request because it is USPS property (thus federal government property). I also searched online to see if there was a way to report vandalism to USPS to have them repainted or cleaned when they have been vandalized, but alas, I couldn’t find anywhere to report it. I did some googling, and this seems to be a common problem in other cities such as San Francisco and NYC. Obviously tampering with the mail box or cleaning it up myself is a federal crime, so there’s no way any of us private citizens are going to try and remove the graffiti ourselves.

It’s a small issue, but one that doesn’t seem to have a solution.”

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  • anonymous

    cleaning up a mailbox is not tampering with the mail. no one is going to arrest you.

  • Tom

    Unsolicited, tangential opinion that has little to do with the OP’s valid point: I actually kind of like graffiti sometimes, especially on the RI Ave–Silver Spring corridor of the Red Line. I found out not long ago that there’s a documentary about it (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/red-line-documentary-looks-behind-graffiti-along-the-tracks-in-northeast-washington/2013/03/09/d8fea62e-8805-11e2-98a3-b3db6b9ac586_story.html).

  • t-digs

    Call Norton’s office. She will have her staff call usps and it will be fixed. This is the best way. Blindly trust me and you wont be disappointed! (

    • Daduf96

      Brilliant. Didn’t think of that. Called her office and it’s getting re-painted. Thanks!

  • Bloomingdale

    Just paint over it yourself. If they don’t care whether vandals put graffiti on it, they certainly won’t care if you eliminate the vandals’ graffiti.

    • Columbia Heights Cal

      Don’t paint it… go to Ace (or some other hardware or paint store) and buy Goof Off brand Graffiti Remover. It won’t remove the paint and it takes about one minute or less to remove. It is relatively clean and quick… this can also be used on signs and those metal stoplight boxes. It works like a charm…

      • textdoc

        Thanks for the tip! I had no idea there was such a product.

      • Steve F

        Good ol’ acetone based nail polish remover works as well

  • JS

    Oh god, no one’s going to charge you with a federal crime for painting a mailbox, especially if you do it at night. Benjamin Moore 811 Old Glory, a brush, and 30 seconds is all you need to fix this.

  • T

    Is this mailbox tagged with “cream corn & broccoli”? Sorry that you’re dealing with graffiti on the mailbox, but that is random enough to make me laugh.

  • TJ

    It is fine as it is. A symbol of urban indifference and the last gasps of an antiquated public service. Frankly it would be even better if graffiti artists spent some more time on it, like every utility box in New Orleans. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  • RV

    I know it’s a legitimate eyesore and all, but…just let it go. The easiest solution for USPS to respond to what I can only imagine will be repeated calls to clear graffiti from this one particular mailbox would be to just remove it, thus creating a worse problem. Just consider it a sacrificial rod for local vandals.

  • Former postal employee

    Call or write the postmaster for the zip code where the damaged mail box is to complain. Obviously the postal carriers using the mailbox don’t care enough to report it, but Postmasters tend to be sensitive to public perception of safety and appearance type issues.

  • Bort

    This is a joke right? From calling 311 to report a tagged up mailbox to googling one’s way to an understanding that graffiti happens in cities, this has to be a joke. Alternatively, maybe OP is from another planet. I personally think more graffiti is the way to go, as long as the handstyles are fresh.

    • anon

      Let us know where your house is, so we can go tag it.

      • Neighborly


  • anonymous

    How about them good old days when kids just marked up DC USPS boxes with chalk… and got people killed.

  • Neighborly

    I find it bizarre that some people here are actually advocating for vandalism, blight, and the destruction of federal property. Get a life, treat your neighborhood with respect, and other people will too! I’d personally like to thank the OP for doing his part and for relegating the #CreamCornAndBroccoli to the annals of history.

  • Thought

    This is one of those cases where having a competent, responsive, and blight-aware Councilmember would come in handy.
    Unfortunately you live in Ward 1.

  • Terry Lynch
    • Daduf96

      Regrettably, that email address doesn’t work. Do you happen to have an alternative one?

  • Shaw

    This is a seek forgiveness not permission issue. I had one of these in front of my house a few years back, and kept a can of USPS Blue paint under my sink. I had to repaint that damn thing about forty times, but eventually they stopped tagging it. And if you ever did get prosecuted and / or fined for cleaning up graffiti, you would collect a bazillion dollars on a GoFundMe page in about an hour if you just wrote into this very blog to tell people it had happened, which should more than cover your legal fees or fines.


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