Cities fight back against growing graffiti problem
Xochtil Peña (The Desert Sun) | September 29, 2012
Andrew Abasta dropped his girlfriend off at work and was headed back home in Coachella when he saw the perfect canvas for his art — a white agriculture pipe.
“I’m a graffiti artist. I saw something that was calling my name. I jumped out of my car,” he said.
With a can of orange spray paint from his back seat, he went to work embellishing the initials of his tagging crew — “TSK” — on the pipe at Avenue 52 and Calhoun Street.
Now the city is suing the 20-year-old for up to $25,000.
It’s too harsh, Abasta said.
“I’m only 20. I don’t walk around with $25,000 in my pocket. I have two kids I have to support,” he said. “That’s going to take food out of my children’s mouth.”
Coachella Valley cities spend more than $1 million on paint and staff to clean up taggers’ work. In Coachella, this year’s budget for graffiti removal is $135,000, up from $98,000 last year.
“We’re increasing resources, but it’s a growing problem,” said Coachella City Manager David Garcia.
There were 11,687 calls to police dispatchers across the valley about graffiti and vandalism from Jan. 1, 2010 to June 30, 2012, according to a database compiled by The Desert Sun. Not all calls were ultimately determined to be a crime.
Desert Hot Springs had the most calls, with 2,043, followed by Cathedral City at 1,627 and Palm Desert at 1,506.
Getting rid of graffiti is a top priority to fight blight and gang activity. But as budgets shrink, the battle becomes tougher, particularly in Cathedral City, which has spent up to $200,000 in past years.
Since the city had to cut public works employees in June, there’s not enough manpower to keep up with the taggers’ constant paint sprees around town. Businesses and homeowners are asked to cover it up themselves because it could be weeks before public works can get to it, said the department’s manager, Patrick Milos. And when they do, it’s plain white paint. Under consideration: trying to cut deals with stores to give residents discounts, particularly if they want a matching color.
“I understand that the city has been hit hard and they can’t afford the time, money or people to control the graffiti problem, but the city needs to do something more than what they are currently doing,” said resident Jean Connors, 53. “Charge the parents for the costs, get the kids out to clean up their mess, something to keep our city looking clean. Graffiti makes the city look trashy. No one wants to live in a city that’s covered in graffiti.”
Image source: flickrhivemind.net
Tags: Andrew Abasta, Cathedral City, Coachella Valley, Desert Hot Springs, graffiti cleanup costs, Palm Desert, TSK tagging crew