Sacramento hires teens to clean up graffiti

Ernesto Garcia Morales (Sacramento Bee) | June 30, 2014

Florin Road grafffiti removalBeneath the elevated light-rail tracks that run across busy Florin Road, Alicia Villasenor cleans the gang-related graffiti that is highly visible to motorists, pedestrians and Luther Burbank High School students.

She’s among eight teens hired by the City of Sacramento for its yearlong graffiti abatement program. Entering its 25th year, the program sends students ages 14-18 each weekend to various posts throughout town.

Accompanied by two crew members and a supervisor, the students help remove graffiti from freeway overpasses, and from the walls of private and public property, including utility poles, mailboxes, trash receptacles and other street furniture. The students also spruce up the landscaping at city parks.

“When we are out in the neighborhoods, people are always saying ‘Thank you,’ ” said Villasenor, 18, a graduate of Inderkum High School in Natomas. “It feels nice to be appreciated.”

The students typically paint over or use alcohol to remove gangs’ signs and profanity. Such graffiti can have a negative impact on those who live, work and own businesses nearby, according to Noel Eusebio, a Sacramento senior enforcement code officer and the supervisor of the graffiti abatement program.

“It’s a quality-of-life issue,” he said. “You don’t start to maintain things, it will attract criminals or prostitutes; you leave the graffiti up, that neighborhood business wouldn’t attract the clients that it wants. I would hate to see what the city would look like if we didn’t have this program.”

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Photo credit: Brian Baer

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