In 2009 and 2010, we told you about a group of workers in the East End District that drove around in trucks painting over graffiti put up by local gangs. They did such a good job some of the workers were even threatened by gang members. Because of their success, the City of Houston is now hiring them to take care of its graffiti as well. Bill Stamps has the story.
Mayor Annise Parker made the announcement at Montie Beach Park just north of Downtown -- a park that has seen its share of graffiti.
"It’s extremely frustrating that we so often feel that we just can’t get ahead of the vandals who place graffiti around our city. This gives us a wonderful tool to try to in do just that. But as we get more aggressive, they seem to get wilier and find new places to put graffiti."
The city isn’t giving up…its handing over the graffiti cleanup duties to crews with the Greater East End District. Parker announced a five year contract with the East End, hoping its graffiti cleanup crews can work their magic for Houston, they way they have in the East End. The deal also saves the city money.
"Graffiti is a crime. We spend tens of thousands, in fact, I think it’s about a million dollars a year cleaning up graffiti. Those are your tax dollars we’re spending."
Joe Turner is head of the city’s parks and recreation department. Parks are some of the first places taggers like to strike.
"Our goal is to get it gone in 48 hours or less. How do we get that done? You have to let us know it’s there. 3-1-1, 3-1-1, 3-1-1."
We followed supervisor Martin Chavez two years ago as he and his crews drove around and painted over graffiti in the East End. They’re so meticulous they even match the colors of the building so that you never know it’s been painted.
Chavez was at the big announcement and says just a few weeks ago they had to call HPD because gang members were threatening them as they painted over graffiti. Still Asst Chief Don McKinney says, keeping building graffiti free is vital to the community.
"The presence of graffiti would indicate that there might be an opportunity for crime, so if we leave it there unabated it makes it look like the neighborhood, or the community, does not care about the community."
Joe Turner says Houston parks get hit about 20 times a week. With this new contract, Martin Chavez and his crew plan to hit each spot and paint right back over it.
To report graffiti online, visit www.houstontx.gov/graffiti/