Sunday, June 04, 2006

Too Bad There's No Market for Graffiti Abatement Futures

File this one under Defining Deviancy Down: According to last week’s Alief/Southwest zoned section of the Houston Chronicle, the police department and the new Brays Oaks Management District are working together to turn back the rising tide of graffiti blighting southwest Houston.

That’s the good news. In its entirety.

The bad news is the Sisyphusean futility of this endeavor: What amounts to success, at least as the Chronicle story suggests, is the apparently never-ending painting, repainting and re-repainting over of the same walls that get tagged (as they say) and retagged by two collections of unsupervised youth who skulk under the names La Primera and Sureños.

Here’s the recent activity report for the graffiti-marred backside of a strip center on Roark Road near U.S. Highway 59:
District officials went to the site for the second time May 22 to paint over new graffiti bearing the name of the Mexican gang Sureños. The district cleaned the same building on May 16, but the gang retagged it during the weekend.

"It's a never-ending battle, but if you keep abating it, they'll come back one or two more times, but eventually they'll stop coming back here," said James Myers, director of community services for the management district.
As you might expect this boulder-rolling can be costly, in both dollars and elbow grease. The management district has contracted with a clean-up crew:

[Martin] Chavez, who has abated graffiti for five years with the East End Management District, worked with two other members of his crew to clear the Roark Road strip mall.

"We spent six hours cleaning this place and it cost a lot of money," Chavez said of the strip mall. "They can come out here in one night and in a few hours do so much damage."

Chavez said it took about 20 gallons of paint at a cost of $20 per gallon plus labor to cover up graffiti at the Roark Road strip mall the first time.

Since the Brays Oaks Management District began its graffiti abatement program April 12, Myers said it has cleaned 119 sites at a cost of about $7,500.

That’s in a month and a half.

According to the “graffiti liaison” for HPD’s Fondren Division
catching the perpetrators is too costly.

"There's no way the city can provide the money for cameras and officers, and there are so many locations you don't know where or what time they're going to hit. So we're doing the next best thing, which is continuing to get rid of it," she said.
It’s funny. Thirty years ago, maybe even twenty, this business would have sparked public outrage. Now it’s just another reason to shut the door and pull the covers up over your ears.

Read it and weep.

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