Graffiti abatement a priority in Chandler
Nearly 1,800 incidents of graffiti were abated in Chandler last fiscal year by a single Graffiti Abatement Technician.
Sal Rodriguez is charged with the job of painting over the unsightly markings left by taggers, vandals and street gangs.
"I love Chandler. And I hate graffiti," says Sal, who next month will celebrate his one year anniversary as the City's sole graffiti fighter. "If you love what you're doing, you'll have the motivation to do it well and make it look right."
Sal takes special care to match wall colors where possible when painting over graffiti and limits overspray by using a piece of plywood to ensure his paint lines up with the edges of adjacent blocks or bricks. He starts at the outside edges, framing the graffiti within a box, then paints the interior area until the graffiti is covered.
Chandler has an aggressive Graffiti Abatement Program that last fiscal year saw 1,755 incidents abated. Graffiti contributes to neighborhood deterioration, provides a communication system for gangs and other vandals, damages property, and constitutes a public nuisance. Chandler's City Code requires that all sidewalks, walls, buildings, fences, signs, and other structures or surfaces on public and private property be kept free from graffiti.
Members of the public report graffiti sightings, but two-thirds of the cases are initiated proactively by City staff. Sal is on the job each Tuesday through Saturday and has a real passion and energy for the job. And he has a message for those who deface public and private property with their graffiti.
"I have more paint than you do! You're not going to wear me down."
Before painting over graffiti, Sal uses a City app called "Public Stuff" to enter information and photograph the markings. The information is shared with the Police Department which closely monitors graffiti activity. The app is the same one available to residents wanting to submit requests to the City regarding issues that need fixing, such as potholes, graffiti, broken streetlights, downed trees, and water leaks.
"Using the Public Stuff app is the best way to report graffiti and have it abated quickly," Sal says. The app is available for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry and allows users to choose an option to receive updates on the status of their request. More information is available at www.chandleraz.gov/mobileapps. Graffiti can also be reported to a Graffiti Hotline, 480-782-4322.
In addition to painting over graffiti, Sal removes grease paint and stickers from metal surfaces such as light poles and street signs. He also carries plastic safety netting in his truck to screen off backyards where downed fences have left unattended pools open to streets or alleys.
"I spend more time in alleys than anybody," Sal explained. "Downed fences were something I came across from time to time, so I asked if I could carry some safety netting to prevent access to pools so children weren't exposed to the hazard."
When not responding to calls, Sal says he returns to areas of the City where years of graffiti abatement have left walls blotchy and mismatched. He has made it a personal mission to research the walls' original colors and repaint their entire length to restore the original look.
"People appreciate what we're doing," Sal says. "They sometimes come up and thank me or give me a thumbs up when driving by. It feels good to know I'm making a difference."