The following story is one of a four-part series looking at several of the public safety and service programs provided by the city of Santa Clarita. Part I takes a look at the work of the Graffiti Task Force.
A driver passing by noticed a suspected Santa Clarita gang member near North Oaks Church of Christ in Canyon Country on Nov. 22.
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A Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputy found graffiti within minutes of the report and a suspect nearby, making an arrest within hours.
By the following Monday morning, all but one piece of the graffiti was gone, and the city of Santa Clarita’s Graffiti Task Force was working with the property’s manager to match the paint on the building.
The prompt removal of the graffiti highlights the work of the city of Santa Clarita’s Graffiti Task Force, which answers thousands of reports each year through the work of a small, dedicated team of trained staff and volunteers.
“It’s in our best interest to address a hot spot location so it doesn’t get out of control,” said task force leader Justin Cummings, alluding to the famous “broken window” theory. “It’s a proven fact that the faster we take care of the graffiti, the less likely it is to re-appear.”
The unit, supervised by Cynthia Llerenas and coordinated by Cummings, erased 7,826 pieces of graffiti to date in 2013, a 37 percent increase from the 5,713 pieces removed in 2012.
But the hope is that once vandals get the message that it will be taken care of quickly, it won’t happen nearly as often.
To that end the city has a Helen Putnam Award-winning database program that allows it to determine what areas are being targeted by the would-be spray painters more frequently, developed by city staff.
The task force consists of Cummings, as well as two full-time employees, nine part-time employees and 23 trained volunteers known as the Paseo Patrol, for their work in the city’s miles of walkways.
“We address the graffiti with a three-pronged approach,” Cummings said, listing a Sheriff’s Department collaboration, quick eradication and outreach with local schools and property owners as the three prongs.
While the city is working to reverse the trends, residents have taken notice of the efforts that have been under way since 2006.
“The response to graffiti removal requests is always outstanding and sends a message to the vandals that the City and its residents will not tolerate their acts of mischief,” states one city survey.
This respondent, who used the city’s mobile app to report the graffiti and then to respond to their request, is just an example of the overwhelmingly positive response the city has seen to the task force.
Through the city’s various online outlets, the city has received 370 surveys, and 99.9 percent of the results are positive, Cummings said.
And it’s a collaborative effort with the Sheriff’s Department, as well.
The collaboration with the Sheriff’s Station results in an average of 160 arrests of graffiti vandals per year, Cummings said, adding that 59 percent of those arrested are juveniles and 41 percent are adults.
If you have any graffiti to report, call 661-25-CLEAN, or 661-252-5326.
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Source: Santa Clarita News