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Task Force Making Progress in Curbing Graffiti

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Over the last three years, there has been an extensive crack down on graffiti in the city of Buffalo and nearby suburbs. The Graffiti Hurts Task Force meets regularly to tackle the problem.

In 2002, graffiti vandals were on a roll, continuously targeting sites in Buffalo. But by July of that year, Mayor Anthony Masiello and others had had enough. That's when the Graffiti Hurts Task Force stepped in to help trouble shoot the growing problem.

"The task force has made great strides in understanding graffiti taggers and what their profile is," said Pamela Beal, coordinator of UB's Community Initiative and Regional Community Policing Center.

Beal says these graffiti vandals are not necessary gang members or from low social economic backgrounds. In fact, she says the so-called taggers could be college educated, in their mid 20s and living in the suburbs.

"Eighty percent of graffiti is not gang related," Beal said. "It is this stuff called hip hop. It is big bubble letters. We want the community to know that this does not involve gangs. They should not be afraid of the these young men and women."

Two graffiti vandals recently caught in the act are from Amherst. Beal says while graffiti bandits still target the city and some suburbs, improved clean up approaches and citizen monitoring are making a big difference.

"These guys are doing it on bridges, tall buildings and in the parks -- sometimes even during the day," Beal said. "The last suspects we actually caught were putting graffiti on a business. It was late at night, but the security guards caught them. The police were right there."

Beal says the Erie County District Attorney's office is taking the cases very seriously. Those caught are being prosecuted.

And in an effort to discourage graffiti vandals from repeating the act, quick clean up is a tactic that seems to work best.

"The research shows that if you take it down three times, they are very unlikely to come back," Beal said.

But clean up is a costly process. Beal estimates that over a quarter of a million dollars a year has been spent locally to clear away graffiti.