Texas Batma'am Vicki Graswich Rides Herd on Errant Teens

updated 02/19/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/19/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

It is nighttime and all seems quiet in Balcones Woods, a middle-class subdivision of Austin, Texas. Decent folks are sound asleep. Yet, even in Balcones Woods, semidastardly deeds are afoot. Small knots of kids wander the tree-lined streets, some in search of postmidnight mischief. But now they have spawned their own nemesis. She prowls the streets in her Chrysler LeBaron, wearing midnight-black tights, knee-high black boots and long black gloves. Oh, yes, she also wears a mask and a hood with tiny, pointed ears.

By day, she is Vicki Graswich, mother of three, homemaker, part-time student.

By night, they call her Batma'am.

Graswich, 36, became a caped crusader late last summer. She had twice been the victim of "mailbox baseball," and her front yard had been festooned with toilet paper. But the last straw was when someone smeared her parked car with eggs and lipstick. She decided something had to be done. Taking her cue from the kids' craze for Batman, Graswich rented a Batman costume for a couple of nights. "Then," she says, "I went ahead and plunked down $100 and bought it."

Wearing her outfit, Batma'am began driving around Balcones Woods at night and talking to the kids she encountered. "I tell them that it's not safe for them to be out late," says Graswich, "and that I'd appreciate it if they'd go home. Sometimes I follow them to the door and talk with the parents."

Graswich says the children are invariably polite to her. While some Balcones Woods residents feel that Graswich has gone a bit overboard, most of her neighbors support what she's doing. "Somebody needed to do it," says Julie Fleming, "and Vicki has the guts and sense of humor to make it work. There's still some vandalism because kids are going to be kids, but I think it has gone way down." In fact, Graswich says her efforts have been sufficiently successful for her to cut back on her Bat activities. "Now," she says, "I don't have to go out but about an hour each night, instead of all night long."

Graswich's husband, Jon, a 36-year-old budget director for the Austin school district, is supportive of his crime-fighting wife. "I'm glad she's doing it," he says. "Vicki has made that old TV message—'It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?'—mean something." Another family member, 9-year-old Courtney, has mixed feelings. While she's proud of her mom's extracurricular activities, Courtney says she is getting a little tired of being called Batchild by kids on the school bus.

Bat barbs or no, Graswich is still on the streets every night. "This is a hoot!" she says with a giggle. "The only thing is, I'd like to hang upside down somewhere for a while and rest."

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