Students paint over graffiti, help city with blight removal

June 27, 2013 

cpride@losbanosenterprise.com

Last week about 25 children spent the first day of summer picking up paint brushes and rollers to remove blight from their city.

The Los Banos Police and Public Works departments held the fourth annual Community Graffiti Cleanup Day on June 21.

Councilwoman and high school teacher Elizabeth Stonegrove was one of the organizers.

"The first year we did it I didn't really know how many kids were going to come out and we had a couple hundred kids show up. They really seemed to enjoy it," she said. "We're trying a little bit different strategy this year. I wanted to get a couple smaller groups to come out and spend about three hours and paint over the graffiti and get it all covered."

Instead of having students painting all across town, three locations were picked out - the intersection of Overland and Nantes avenues, Gallo Street and an area off Pacheco Boulevard west of Food 4 Less. Public Works Director Mark Fachin said the graffiti cleanup days do not entirely solve the problem, but it does assist his staff in managing the problem.

Crime analyst Megan Soares logs the calls reporting graffiti at the police department. She also said it is good to get children involved.

"The kids take a little bit more ownership," she said. "They'll be like, 'Well, I cleaned that up,' when they see someone doing it. It might create a bit of peer pressure."

City staff collected permission slips from parents, allowing organizers to transport the teens and younger children to the cleanup sites.

"It's good for her because she can learn stuff, help out the community and volunteer," said Eduardo Villanueva of letting his daughter participate in the activity.

Friends Tyrone Faialia, 16, Mark Joseph, 15 and Alvin Mathews, 16, all said they decided to spend the official start of summer painting walls tagged by gangs because it will help get them into college.

Each child that participated received a letter acknowledging their community service work. The trio is hoping it will help them gain admission to San Diego State University in a few years.

None of the children appeared to be bothered that their freshly painted walls will likely be marked up in a matter of weeks with more gang graffiti.

"It'll be nice until then," said Jade Fachin.

Enterprise staff writer Corey Pride can be reached at 388-6563 or cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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