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Lancaster targets taggers with new graffiti removal program

September 26, 2012 |  1:03 pm

Seeking to stem a rise in graffiti, the city of Lancaster has launched a new Graffiti Abatement Volunteer Program, which provides residents with training and tools to erase defacement.

“Graffiti vandalism continues to be one of the more challenging problems that the Public Works Department is facing,” according to city officials. City data show that there were 18,514 incidents of graffiti in Lancaster in 2011, up from 16,326 in 2010. This year, city crews have already removed 22,364 scrawls of graffiti, said Lancaster city spokesman Joseph Cabral.

“The majority of graffiti is done by tag teams,” who spray-paint initials and monikers, Cabral said. “The program was prompted because we received numerous calls from well-meaning residents who were asking for more ways to become involved in their community,” the spokesman added.

According to information published by the city, residents who volunteer for the program would be trained to remove graffiti based on the type of surface and substance to be erased. Volunteers would then be given graffiti removal supplies, including paint matching the color of the location they have chosen to adopt. The citizen graffiti removers would be asked to take on a certain venue for a minimum of three months, city officials said.

Officials stressed that prompt removal of graffiti would help deter more tagging. Lancaster is one of the latest among scores of L.A. County cities, including Los Angeles, that have programs targeting illicit spray-painters and taggers.

Cabral said the cost of Lancaster’s graffiti abatement program would be absorbed into the existing budget, where $76,500 is already allocated for anti-vandalism activities.  

City officials also announced that incidents of graffiti can now be reported on a new hotline by calling (661) 723-5977. 

Under the California penal code, graffiti is considered to be vandalism. If the amount of the damage amounts to $400 or more, offenders can face up to a year in jail and fines from $5,000 to $50,000, according to the code; destruction of less than $400 could result in six months of jail time and/or $1,000 in fines.

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--Ann M. Simmons in Santa Clarita

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