Store creates sticky, risky situations with its decals
The state says photos on a Kailua store's Web site are encouraging vandalism.
STATE authorities have threatened a criminal investigation of the owners of a store whose decals have turned up on freeway and road signs
The owners should be concerned about their legal liability and about the irresponsible behavior they have encouraged, unwittingly or not.
Meanwhile, officials also should go after the vandals who have defaced public property in pursuit of cheap thrills, just as they have with scofflaws who mar walls and the sides of buildings with graffiti.
The Department of Transportation has asked that UDown Shop in Kailua remove from its Web site photos of people with the U-shaped store stickers they pasted in various locations. The site, which urges photos be submitted, shows people in risky situations, including one of a person perched next to an elevated freeway sign. The photos could help in identifying vandals.
The state has had to remove the decals from several signs, a waste of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Roads and freeway lanes have had to be closed to do the work, interfering with traffic flow.
The department is also worried that people could be hurt when they climb signposts, some of them 30 feet high. "Not only do they put themselves in danger," said spokesman Scott Ishikawa, "they put those driving underneath in danger."
The owners of the store, which sells clothing and gear, probably thought distributing logos for customers and others to post here and there was an inexpensive way to advertise. The U-shaped sticker with a down-facing arrow and another with a turtle began showing up as far back as last year when a reader wrote to the Star-Bulletin's "Kokua Line" to inquire about a decal on an H-1 freeway sign.
In May the department sent a letter to UDown requesting certain photos be removed from the Web site, contending the site "encourages individuals to vandalize state property" and that "those who aid, abet, solicit or counsel individuals to vandalize state property, may be, at the very least, liable for civil damages." The letter warned that the matter would be referred to the attorney general for "criminal investigation and prosecution" if the photos were not removed.
In response, the store said it would comply, but the site still displayed the photos as of yesterday. Whether the state would prevail if it brought criminal charges is arguable. In any case, UDown's owners -- who proclaim on their site that they respect "all who respect them" -- would be wise to do the right thing.