July 13, 2013

Tired of graffiti? Try this

Kansas City is enlisting neighborhood groups to combat graffiti by providing power washers and cleaning agents to rent at no charge. Some residents practiced graffiti removal Saturday.

When graffiti is the enemy, a power-washer wand feels like ... power.

Darrellynne Brown Shelton was feeling it Saturday, as she aimed a blast at a graffiti “tag” and watched the color fade.

“I felt empowered,” she said, “like, ‘I can do this.’ It felt good.”

“And kind of therapeutic,” said Constance Norton.

Norton and Shelton with the Oak Park Neighborhood Association in Kansas City were among about 40 residents and others gathered Saturday morning for a graffiti-removal demonstration. It was held in the parking lot of the city’s neighborhood preservation division, 4900 Swope Parkway.

Kansas City is enlisting neighborhood groups to combat graffiti by providing power washers and cleaning agents to rent at no charge.

“The city doesn’t have the resources or the manpower to deal with all of this,” said City Councilman Scott Wagner. “You being here really supports us.”

“Hopefully you will be calling me next week to borrow these things,” said John Parks, code enforcement manager.

Norton and Shelton plan on it. The boundaries of their association are wide, from Linwood to Emanuel Cleaver II boulevards and Prospect to Cleveland avenues, and graffiti is found on light poles, street signs, sidewalks and vacant buildings, they said.

“This is a way for us to get things done without waiting for the city,” Shelton said. “It’s a DIY project.”

The focus of the demonstration by Don Evans with Glidden Professional was on removal rather than painting over graffiti tags. Glidden makes several graffiti removal products that are biodegradable and safe to use, he said.

Evans demonstrated the use of solution-treated “wipes” to remove graffiti on plastic playground equipment, signs and poles.

“Its a little like a ‘karate kid’ treatment,” Evans told the crowd as he used a circular motion to apply the solution and then wiped over the same area with a wet rag.

Norton gave it a try, using a wipe on a metal pole and a “no-smoking” sign, which were spray-painted with red and black marks for the demonstration. On the sign, the cleaner removed the paint but not the sign’s lettering.

“I’m impressed,” she said. “This will help.”

Evans applied graffiti cleaner on marks made on concrete and stone walls, which then got a shot from the power washer. Such surfaces can be tougher to clean thoroughly, he said, and a remaining shadow can require additional treatments.

Sherry Ashcroft and Dale Fugate with the Blue Valley Neighborhood Association attended the demonstration to pick up additional pointers on graffiti removal, which they said their group started pursuing vigorously two years ago.

The association got permission from Kansas City Power & Light to repaint the lower portions of light poles, a typical target of taggers. A big issue is what to do about graffiti on vacant, privately owned buildings, Fugate said.

Graffiti could be a sign of gang or gang-wannabe activity, or it could be young people who have chosen a bad way to goof off, several neighborhood leaders said.

“I think a good portion of it is just kids without a lot of other things to do,” Ashcroft said.

Wagner was pleased with the demonstration attendance, up significantly from the first program held last year.

“People want to fight for their neighborhoods,” Wagner said, “ and we want to help them do it.”

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