Mayor Euille Today on Alexandria's Comcast channel, you missed the story of one of the many innovative things that the Community Oriented Police (COPs) are doing in our neighborhood to help drive crime to their lowest levels in 40 years.
While gangs use graffiti to launch threats against rival gangs and to demarcate turf, in general, graffiti is a nuisance that advertises neglect. It shows that folks don't care. But graffiti on playgrounds, in particular, is just sad. It ruins the investment that we have put into trying to make safe places for kids to play. Parents get scared off, kids don't get exercise...maybe even don't get to go outside...and our open spaces are in effect turned over to illicit activities.
I know the folks in Humes Springs, Lynhaven, Warwick Village and all over have done endless, thankless work trying to maintain these safe havens for kids and often it seems like an uphill battle. The work done by the COPs in Sector 2 is for all of us a breath of fresh air. Safe, cost effective, environmental friendly...so much more you can say. Saving resources and saving kids. That's a good days work for little reward.
Here's the story from the Winter 2011 Issue of the APD Newsletter, The Police Beat:
Officers Strive to Reduce Graffiti Throughout AlexandriaWhile patrolling their beat, Officers Nicholas Ruggiero and Matthew Kramarik noticed that graffiti was all too common among the traffic signs and playgrounds in the Hume Springs community. They submitted a request to have the graffiti removed through the City's Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. Unfortunately, they discovered that there was a long waiting period to have graffiti removed after a request was filed. Due to budget cuts, the Graffiti Removal Team had been absorbed into the Regular Maintenance Team for the City. With no team dedicated to graffiti removal, the time between submitting a report and having the graffiti removed significantly increased.
Officers Ruggiero and Kramarik decided to research the procedures that big cities use for graffiti removal. Through their research the officers found a company called Graffiti Removal, Inc. The officers contacted the company president to inquire about their graffiti removal products. Through this conversation, the company sent the officers a packet to test the product. The packet contained samples of the product, videos and all supplies necessary to remove graffiti from all test surfaces.
Hopeful but skeptical, Officers Ruggiero and Kramarik went to Hume Springs to test out the products. The first test they conducted was on a No Parking sign that was covered in graffiti and was scheduled to be replaced by the City. Amazingly, the graffiti removal product removed every trace of graffiti from the sign. The sign looked brand new and, as a result, no longer needs to be replaced. The officers continued to test the product throughout the Hume Springs area. They were able to remove graffiti from surfaces throughout the community, including the playground at Cora Kelly Elementary School.
Impressed by the graffiti removal product, Officers Ruggiero and Kramarik presented the product and its effectiveness in cleaning up the community at Hume Springs next civic association meeting. The civic association immediately agreed to buy more supplies to continue improving the neighborhood.
The cost for the City to repair the graffiti damage in the Hume Springs area would have been $6,823.00. The supplies, purchased by the Hume Springs Civic Association, cost $12 and allowed the residents to clean up the graffiti that had plagued their community. With the community now graffiti free, residents were inspired to further beautify their community. On November 6, residents got together to plant new plants and mulch areas throughout the neighborhood. In addition, there have been no new graffiti marks or destruction of property complaints since the initial graffiti removal on September 3.
Alexandria City C.O.P.S. unit conducting a graffiti clean up. This video shows that with community involvement and partnership with the police department that graffiti can be removed and deter offenders from repeating.
UPDATE: Because of the tremendous interest, the episode of Mayor Euille Today featuring the interview with these officers is now available to view on the City website. Go here and look for the December 21st show.