(Nov. 19, 2006) -- Ramping-up LB's anti-graffiti program, City Hall has contracted with a professional graffiti eradication firm -- Graffiti Protective Coatings (GPC) -- which will now dispatch four specially equipped trucks across the city each weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (and 24/7 for emergencies), putting a graffiti-eradication crew in each of four city quadrants, removing graffiti as spotted on private property accessible from a public right-of-way and responding to graffiti reported on LB's graffiti hotline: (562) 570-2773.
"Don't be put off by the voice mail. When you leave a graffiti report. the response should be different," Community Development Director Pat West said at a November 18 press event demonstrating the new equipment and crews.
So what's changed? Community Development Director West told LBReport.com that years ago, city crews were tasked to remove graffiti, which morphed into using court referral workers [doing community service as part of their sentences]. But the court referrals meant about fifty people showed up each morning at the city's Public Works Yard, each requiring paperwork and training and tying up a city Supervisor to monitor groups of eight or nine workers on six city trucks...and the whole system only managed to remove about fifty tags a day citywide.
By comparison, after City Hall hired GPC to deal with a small area (about two square miles) in Central LB (vicinity PCH/Orange), GPC managed to remove about sixty tags per day in that small part of the city alone.
That led city management to contract with GPC to handle the whole city. "We've received good community response to it already," said Community Development Director West...and noted the new arrangement has a "value added" benefit: City Hall can now use the court referral workers to do a chore needing a lot less training that also has visible benefits: picking up trash and litter across the city.
At a Nov. 18 shoreline press event, GPC (which handles graffiti removal for private entities including USC and a number of cities) showed how its crews come equipped with multiple paint colors, special scrapers (to peel promotional stickers off street signs) and a company-designed liquid (their secret recipe) that turns graffiti on non-painted surfaces into an emulsified goo that can be wiped or scrubbed away.
This worker makes short-shrift of a tag [pixeled by us] that defaced a beachfront box.
A short distance away, he sprayed a special liquid (a company recipe) on a tag marring a metal beach sign...and with some elbow grease the graffiti was gone. A bit further away, a hand scraper was used to lift annoying promotional stickers from a street sign.
"GPC crews can water- and air-blast or paint out graffiti found on stucco, concrete, block walls and wood. They have the capacity to color match paint or other surfaces to a high degree of accuracy and they maintain a database of color formulae for repeat sites," a city release said.
Within a few minutes, the immediate area looked better (although there's lots to do; we saw graffiti in the beach parking lot near Granada/Ocean). Community Development Director West acknowledged the magnitude of the task; yes, there's a backlog of calls and GPC is working through them. He said residents should hopefully begin seeing visible improvements in the coming weeks...and he urged residents to phone in graffiti sightings to the graffiti hotline -- 570-2273 -- so GPC can get to them.
[Tip to City Hall: add an email or reporting-form link to the city's anti-graffiti website pages so internet-inclined residents (our readers and more) can report graffiti while online as an alternative to voice mail. Once it's up, LBReport.com will do our part by adding a free link to it on our front page.]
In recent months, graffiti has been increasingly visible in multiple parts of the city...including areas that had previously not been heavily impacted. To spread the message that LB is cleaning things up for the holidays and beyond, City Hall held simultaneous neighborhood events spanning the city, focusing on graffiti removal and trash pick up (2200 block Earl, 1300 block Gaviota, 2000 Eucalyptus, 900 block Daisy, 5800 block Cherry, 1000 E. 7th, 2000 block Pacific, 6700 block Butler, 1 Granada and Chavez Park @ 4th/Golden).
About 100 volunteers, drawn in part by internet promotion maven Justin Rudd, turned out at the shoreline event. Among those we spotted in the crowd: SE area activist Melinda Cotton.
3rd district Councilman Gary DeLong welcomed the crowd and said eradicating graffiti is one of his office's priorities.
First Lady Nancy Foster thanked the volunteers, city staff and the newly contracted pros for their work and commended them for their efforts.
LB Firefighters Ass'n President Rich Brandt said his crews backed the anti-graffiti effort...since some LBFD stations and equipment had been tagged by vandals while on calls. [!] LBPD also had a presence, noting that graffiti invites more crime.
Miss Long Beach 2006, Christy Sayer, handed out information to young volunteers and thanked them for helping the city.
City Prosecutor Tom Reeves also attended...and his office is part of the anti-graffiti effort; it will be supplying GPC crews with special GPS-capable cameras to assist in identification, clustering, and trend analysis on the graffiti.
"This information will be shared with other City departments, especially LBPD and LBUSD to help identify issues and trends in a more proactive manner, a city release said.
The release continued, "All reports of graffiti will continue to be transcribed on a daily basis, entered into a specialized database, and forwarded, as appropriate, to the involved City departments or other agency, such as Caltrans for graffiti found on freeways. Additionally, as clustering and trends are analyzed, the Police Department will monitor "hot spots" in an effort to apprehend suspects, and private property owners will be notified and requested to actively address repeat graffiti on their property and consider certain deterrent measures, such as outdoor lighting or enhanced security."
LB's Public Works Dept. handles graffiti on public property and rights-of-way; Parks, Rec & Marine deals with parks and street medians...and graffiti on freeway medians and onramps/offramps is CalTrans' responsibility. Reports made on LB's graffiti hotline will be forwarded, the city release indicated.
Community Development Dir. West's office also issued a set of anti-graffiti tips for residents and businesses: