Councilman Weiner's NCCo civilian crusade against graffiti reaches successful two-year mark - News Journal
Residents paint over what they can reach
By ANGIE BASIOUNY • The News Journal • October 22, 2009
Rob Cameron is the newest foot soldier in the war against graffiti in New Castle County.
His arsenal is deceptively simple: some solvent to budge the ugly scrawl of a tagger, a paint roller and the passion to make his community a better place.
"Graffiti is like a cancer," Cameron said. "Once it starts, it just grows. You have to kill it before it mushrooms."
Cameron, who used to go out and wage the war alone, found comrades when he recently joined the Citizens Anti-Graffiti Brigade -- a grass-roots group, organized by New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner -- that marked its second anniversary Wednesday.
The brigade empowers residents to take back their communities by taking away the one thing that all graffiti artists seem to crave -- attention.
Volunteers keep their eyes open for fresh graffiti, go out and paint over or remove it from places they can reach with "two feet on the ground," and report incidents to state, county and local police.
This aggressive citizen patrolling is a complement to the work of law enforcement, said Delaware State Police Lt. Michael Eisenhardt. When they paint over graffiti fast enough, often enough, the tagger usually gives up, he said.
The residents are "doing it even before the taggers can brag online about what they've done," he said.
Maj. Michael McGowan, New Castle County acting police chief, agreed that ordinary citizens are key in the fight. He praised brigade members Wednesday for being vigilant partners with the police.
"You are an example of what can be done when citizens come together to work with the police," he said to the brigade captains gathered for the meeting at the state police troop in the Brandywine Town Center.
But this meeting wasn't about pats on the back. Weiner and his captains got down to business, discussing the best types of solvents to use, reactivation of the county's graffiti tip line and out-of-the-way places they have identified as practice areas for graffiti artists. Those spots include areas on Rockland Road, Shipley Road and near the Elsmere Skating Rink
"I think we can decidedly say we are winning the war in the Greenville and Brandywine Hundred area," Weiner said. "If you drive through, you'd be hard-pressed to find as much graffiti as you did before we launched this two years ago."
That's about the time that graffiti seemed to explode in the area, Eisenhardt said.
Police have determined most of it isn't gang related, he said. A majority of the suspects are teenagers wanting to boast to their friends online and share information about what, how, where and when they tagged.
"We used to not have a problem," Eisenhardt said. "They used to not do it on private property. Now, they're doing it on private property, they're doing trees. It's really bad."
Many of the suspects convicted of graffiti-related charges are sentenced to community service , cleaning up the graffiti of others. The Brookland Terrace Civic Club, which has its own anti-graffiti brigade that works with Weiner's group, has organized the service hours for more than a dozen teens.
"We need volunteers," Brookland Terrace president Charles Stirk said "The more people we have, the easier it is to do."
R.J. Miles, a brigade captain and the president of the McDaniel Civic Association in Talleyville, admits that recruiting volunteers is tough and sometimes people shy away because they think it will take too much time.
"In the beginning, you think, 'Oh man, that's going to be a lot of work,' " Miles said. "But it's not."
And the rewards are plenty, Weiner said.
"I have great pride when I drive around my district and I don't see graffiti," he said. "It's very uplifting."
WANT TO JOIN?
To learn more or join the Citizens Anti-Grafitti Brigade, visit New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner's web site at www.bobweiner.com and click on the "graffiti" link at the top of the home page.
Contact Angie Basiouny at 324-2976 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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