NO STEREO read the black decal on the right rear window of the cream-colored Mercedes passing in the fast lane of the Santa Monica Freeway. Here was a clear sign of the way we talk to would-be criminals these days. The man in the Mercedes was saying, "Don't bother to burglarize this car because it isn't equipped with speakers, decks or other aural amenities."
The bumper strip has been a means of political persuasion, celebrating candidates on the rear end of automobiles. The BABY ON BOARD signs have proved to be a controversial way to request caution from fellow travelers, claiming an innocent was enclosed. The "no stereo" message, by contrast, is a way of asking to be ignored--sent to common thugs rather than citizen voters or drivers.
Early in the century, when people wanted more protection than the police could provide, they put up warnings to the lawless: KEEP OUT or NO TRESPASSING.
Then, when warnings were not enough, when crime came to the nicest neighborhoods, people added threats and put up signs in front of private residences: PROTECTED BY INTRACTABLE SECURITY SYSTEMS. ARMED PATROL. GUARD DOGS. Even,VICIOUS GUARD DOGS. Benedict Canyon had a beauty in the 1960s, put up by a resident with a sense of humor to match a sense of fear: TRESPASSERS WILL BE VIOLATED. Or, maybe it was VIOLATORS WILL BE PERSECUTED.