PRESCOTT, Ariz. — After Neil Campbell photographed some graffiti under the LaGuardia bridge in Prescott on a recent morning, he went to his Graffiti Removal Detail truck, found paint that matched the bridge, and painted over the tag.
Campbell, community service work program monitor for the Prescott Police Department, said the detail removes graffiti around town about twice a week.
"Just yesterday, I found seven instances of graffiti," Campbell said. "Prescott is not like Tucson, it's not like Phoenix, it's not like L.A., but at the same time, this program is part of the reason you don't see that much graffiti."
Frank Assadi, the owner of Blimpie's at the Depot Marketplace, said the team recently removed some stenciled spray-painted graffiti from his patio tables.
"When he came to remove it, he said he had seen this mark all over town, and he cleaned it right up," Assadi said. "Ten years ago we didn't see this here. I think it's people coming up from Phoenix."
Tom Martini, general manager at the Gurley Street Grill, said when they found graffiti on a wall and door to the restaurant, they called the non-emergency number, an officer came out and took photos, and then Campbell removed it.
"He did a wonderful job," Martini said. "There was no damage at all to any of the painted surfaces. He really did a great job getting rid of it."
Several businesses have donated to the Graffiti Removal Detail, helping them buy paint, equipment, and Graffiti-X, a chemical that removes spray paint, inks and adhesives safely from painted surfaces, Campbell said.
"I've seen the work they were doing putting people to work," said John Sandri, owner of Mile High Rent 2 Ride. "It's a win-win situation for the community and everybody else. That's the reason we backed it — caring about the town and seeing them make a difference."
In the past, donations alone funded graffiti removal, but the detail last received a donation in 2009. Since then, money has been pulled as needed from community service funds, said Prescott Police Sgt. Georgia Davies with community services.
Davies said she is hoping community members will donate to the detail. She is trying to get a line item in the city budget to help fund the detail as well.
"When you see graffiti, it sticks out like a sore thumb," Davies said. "We have a tracking process where we document the graffiti, then get rid of it quickly so people don't have to see it."
From August 2009 to August 2010, Campbell said he photographed, documented, and cleaned up 93 instances of graffiti. The next year, that number increased to 324 instances, and rose to 632 when including graffiti found by police officers, Prescott Police Citizens on Patrol, and City of Prescott volunteer park rangers, Campbell said.
"Every report includes from one to six tags of graffiti," Campbell said. "Using a median of three, that totals about 1,896 tags we covered up last year."
"People would be astounded by the amount of graffiti they'd see if it wasn't cleaned up so quickly," Davies added.
People doing community service helped remove graffiti from the Goodwin and Gurley Street bridges as part of the trail revitalization project, Campbell said.
"Graffiti removal is a team effort. The Citizens on Patrol, volunteer park rangers and officers are a big part of it with their patrols," Campbell said.
In one case, an alert teacher helped investigators, Campbell said.
"We had a kid who had (written) his tag line on an AIMS test. The teacher took note of it and took it to the SRO (school resource officer), and the SRO got investigations involved and they were able to clear up about 12 cases of graffiti," Campbell said.
Graffiti in Prescott peaks in the spring and fall, and most is not gang-related, Campbell said.
"The exception on that is during city events - like the Christmas parade, Fourth of July or Best Fest - graffiti spikes," Campbell said. "My belief is that it comes from out of town, because I don't see those tags for the rest of the year."
Recently, the detail has been cleaning up more "slap tags" — labels stuck on public property, Campbell said.
"When it's on public property, I spray some Graffiti-X on it and I scrape it off with a putty knife," Campbell said. "But a majority of our graffiti is marker — about 80 percent."
Just like everyone else during these economic times, the city is trying to do more with less, but donations from community members have helped a great deal, Campbell said.
"We all need to work together if we see any of this graffiti and report it right away," Assadi said. "We should take care of getting rid of it quickly to keep our wonderful town looking beautiful."
Information from: The Daily Courier, http://www.dcourier.com