Partners in Paint program tags gang graffiti as target

Sunday, May. 31, 2009

Modesto City Councilman Dave Lopez gathered some cash, some brains and some muscle over the past couple of months to carry out his new anti-graffiti campaign.

He expects to launch Partners in Paint by the end of the summer with teams of high school students and Boy Scouts wiping out graffiti on weekends.

Early contributions to the program showed Lopez that residents are fed up with gang graffiti, with some seeing it as blight that deters economic development because it gives visitors the impression that Modesto can’t control the crime.

“We’re losing jobs and we’re losing revenue to other cities,” Lopez said.

Modesto recorded about 7,700 complaints about graffiti to the city’s Police Department and its Neighborhood Preservation Unit last year, said police Sgt. Derrick Tyler.

Tyler likely will be a coordinator for the program in its early months, although Lopez’s intent is to run Partners in Paint without public dollars.

Boyett Petroleum and Prime Shine Express Car Wash each are ponying up $5,000 to buy discounted paint for the program. They’re also setting up bins for people to donate paintbrushes and rollers.

Prime Shine General Manager Evan Porges said the city’s budget crunch means Modesto will have fewer resources to fight blight.

“As I read the paper every single day, the city’s budgets are getting slashed for the type of services that enhance our quality of life,” he said. “The only pockets that exist — and they’re getting smaller — are private business. If we don’t step up, we’re just going to have a city that’s in turmoil.”

Never Boring Design is working on a promotional campaign to recruit volunteers and donations.

Churches are offering space to hold materials and Modesto City Schools is working out a way to offer community service credits to students who participate.

Lopez wants to send teams of teenagers every Saturday to paint over graffiti. He aims to remove the incentive for gangs or taggers to deface property by covering up their work quickly.

Graffiti “is on the rise,” he said. “If we don’t break their spirits like they’re breaking ours, I don’t see how it’s going to end.”

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