DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION PHOTO
Workers recently removed this sign, which was posted on Waialae Avenue, after the wording was altered by vandals.
Disputed photos force store to close Web site
UDown Shop owners say they will change it per a state warning
Owners of a Kailua-based retailer have shut down their Web site temporarily after state officials threatened them with a criminal investigation if they did not remove photos of people sticking the company's logo on freeway and traffic safety signs.
Justin McCoy, one of four business partners of the UDown Shop, said he disabled their Web site, udownafied.com, Wednesday to make improvements and to stop causing an "uproar" over their logo being used to deface traffic signs.
Two months ago the state Department of Transportation sent the company a letter requesting that UDown, a clothing and accessories shop, remove certain photos from its Web site.
Department officials said the photos promote vandalism and encourage the public to put stickers in far-removed places, endangering their safety.
In the letter, Deputy Transportation Director Brennon Morioka warned them that the matter would be referred to the attorney general's office for "criminal investigation and prosecution" if the photos were not removed.
On Tuesday, transportation officials sent a second letter to UDown stating that they had contacted the state attorney general's office because the photos were still online.
The business's most popular logo -- the letter U with an arrow pointing down in the center -- has been slapped on many traffic signs. On the Web site's gallery, a photo of a person standing next to a freeway sign with a UDown logo sticker was one of several pictures that raised concerns among transportation officials about safety.
McCoy said it will take about a month to revamp their Web site with different photos and text to inform the public to stop sending them photos and not to put themselves in danger when advertising their logo.
"We're going to take precautions to make sure nobody gets hurt doing this," he said.
Though UDown's Web site is temporarily shut, its gallery site can still be accessed through their products Web page via Google search.
Of the Web site shutdown, state transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said, "We hope this is a positive first step in these photos coming down.
"We're not against innovative ideas, but it shouldn't encourage criminal activity," Ishikawa said.
Within the last couple of weeks, workers have removed three or four traffic signs because the words were altered to read "U Down."
"We're not directly blaming the company for the vandalism, but having the photos up is not helping the situation at all," Ishikawa said. "The joke is wearing a little thin. It's not funny anymore."