City embarks on graffiti eradication initiative
Mayor Susan Narvaiz and City Manager Rick Menchaca stood before television cameras Tuesday morning to unveil a new $32,000 soda blaster to be used in a graffiti eradication campaign.
“Basically, we want to wipeout graffiti in San Marcos,” said Narvaiz.
A telephone hotline and e-mail now offer residents the ability to report graffiti vandalism. Narvaiz said the goal of the city is to remove graffiti within 24 hours of a sighting. She said the graffiti eradication campaign could be aided by student volunteers from Texas State University and the donation of materials by local businesses. According to a city press release, the city will recruit Gary Job Corps students and members of “civic organizations” to help combat graffiti vandalism.
Detective Gean Tucker of the San Marcos Police Department said over the last year officers arrested three juveniles on felony vandalism charges, two of whom were Gary Job Corps students.
“When I got those three guys off the street, the graffiti slowed down tremendously,” said Tucker. “The kid from South America was a very accomplished spray paint artist, as well as the kid from San Antonio.”
Tucker said the third vandal, a Gary Job Corps student, created graffiti for gang-related reasons.
“The gang-related graffiti was basically just your typical every-day writing, words on the walls and such – it wasn’t artistic,” said Tucker. “The other two guys, theirs was more stylized and more developed.”
Tucker said the vandal from San Antonio “tagged” locations in San Marcos between Gary Job Corps and City Park every day for three months over the summer. Park Ranger David Ybarra said the three-month-long period of cleaning up graffiti, only to have it appear the day after, costs the city thousands of dollars. He said city work crews and juvenile probation workers were involved in the cleanup efforts.
“We had one (juvenile probation worker) who was mad because all day long, that’s all he did: paint over the graffiti, and he would say, ‘I’m going to find out who did this,'” said Ybarra. Ybarra said graffiti now appears about once every week.
After the press conference a city work crew demonstrated the new soda blaster on a patch of graffiti on the Hopkins Road Bridge crossing the San Marcos River. After the cloud of baking soda cleared, onlookers witnessed the absence of the scrawled black lettering that had moments before marred the bridge’s wall.
“I think the machine is worth it, I really do,” Said Reggie Calvin, an operator with the city Parks Department. “Makes it easier on us.”
Calvin said he and his fellow operators used to have to paint the entire surface of a vandalized object in order to eliminate one graffiti tag. He said the soda blaster will save time by allowing them to focus on only as much surface area as is marred by graffiti. His team’s task now is to blast away all the paint on bridges and pillars, restoring them to their natural concrete color. Calvin said benches and picnic tables in a section of city park have been made to look “brand new” by the soda blaster.
According to a press release, part of the Graffiti Abatement Initiative involves more aggressive enforcement of laws pertaining to graffiti. The press release states fines and punishment for creating graffiti on “schools, higher education institutions, places of worship, cemeteries, public monuments” and some kinds of community centers can range up to $10,000 and 99 years in prison.
“You come to San Marcos and tag something, we’re going to clean it up,” Tucker said. “And if I can find you, I’m going to charge you with a crime. That’s what we want to get out to the young people who are more likely to do graffiti on public property.”
by SEAN BATURA
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