Police, sheriff step up anti-graffiti effort

Jor Russo paints over graffiti on the side of a building in the 900 block of North Ave

Will Hertel said he never has spray-painted graffiti. But he spent the last 14 weekends painting over it.

Hertel and his crew mates with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department workender program paint over graffiti and gang signs. They also pick up litter in order to avoid a jail sentence.

Hertel said he’s not impressed with the quality of most of the graffiti, and he warns graffiti “artists” they may get to paint more walls than they bargained for if police spot them in the act.

“If you get caught, this is what you’ll be doing,” he said while holding a paint roller in his hand Saturday outside America’s Mattress, 912 North Ave. He and his crew mates put a coat of beige paint over graffiti on the store’s exterior.

The Sheriff’s Department and Grand Junction police have joined forces against what they say is a growing problem in and around Grand Junction. Saturday, they introduced a new number — 243-9274 (WASH) — that city or county residents can call to report graffiti or ask to have it removed by the workender crew for free.

Volunteers, meanwhile, went door to door to hand out magnets and brochures in neighborhoods where there is a lot of graffiti.

America’s Mattress manager Kip Sparrow said the graffiti on his store’s exterior appeared about six weeks ago. He said it took just one day for a paint crew to come to his business and block out the tag after he called for help.

“I’m extremely grateful to live in a town that offers this service,” he said. “It saves me the time and money of doing it myself.”

Grand Junction Police Department Cmdr. Andy Martinez said graffiti is more than just a problem of property defacement. He said “tagging,” as the act of painting graffiti is commonly labeled, isn’t usually an isolated crime.

“Vandalism, theft, shoplifting, public urination, all of these things are related to graffiti,” Martinez said.

The new joint effort, called Taking Away Graffiti (TAG), will cost a few thousand dollars to implement, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said. Savings will come because inmate work crews are used for labor, and several businesses donated graffiti cleanup supplies to the crew.

Hilkey said some cities allow people to paint graffiti in designated areas. He does not think it would be good for Grand Juction. “No, they shouldn’t have a place to do it,” Hilkey said. “Time and time again, those programs are shown not to work.”

The Super Rad Skateboard and Mural Jam, also held Saturday, allowed kids to paint on a wall for one day only at Eagle Rim Park. It cost $3 to paint. The event highlighted one of the points Hilkey made Saturday morning.

“The difference between graffiti and art is permission. Otherwise, it’s visual pollution,” he said.


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