Marysville crackdown on graffiti a community effort

City and community members in Marysville are quick to credit the work of the community as a whole with combatting graffiti.

During his three years as a seasonal maintenance worker with the city of Marysville Parks and Recreation Department

MARYSVILLE — City and community members in Marysville are quick to credit the work of the community as a whole with combatting graffiti.

One of the community members who’s been fighting graffiti on the front lines is 20-year-old Andrew King, a third-year seasonal maintenance worker with the city of Marysville Parks and Recreation Department.

Parks and Recreation Maintenance Worker Justin Palitz praised King for tackling “not a glamorous job,” given the labor and foul-smelling chemicals required to remove graffiti tags. King’s enthusiasm impressed city parks maintenance staff so much that they nominated him for an award never before earned by a seasonal employee. King not only conducted an estimated 80 percent of graffiti cleanups during his seasonal shifts, but also offered tips to property owners impacted by graffiti, advising them to maintain bright lights and trimmed outdoor plants.

“A lot of places get hit at night, especially if they’re secluded,” King said.

King and Palitz agreed that progress has been made through “our home town’s collective efforts,” which they see as affecting everyone who lives and works in Marysville.

“If you don’t think graffiti looks good, you can make the first move,” King said. “Our city’s appearance should make people want to come here.”

Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ballew echoed Palitz’s opinion of King, and shares Palitz and King’s view that the reversal of the trend toward graffiti is the result of “unified teamwork,” not only between the city’s Parks and Recreation and Police departments, but also with the Marysville School District and community.

Ballew singled out city of Marysville Community Information Officer Doug Buell for creating the graffiti reporting Web site, as well as school district English Language Learner parent/community liaisons Wendy Messarina and Svetlana Pasonok for helping get the word out, to Spanish and Russian students, about the damage done to the community by graffiti.

Ballew and Marysville Police Cmdr. Robb Lamoureux noted that the Marysville graffiti task force, made up of city, school district, service club and Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce members, has identified “corridors of concern” by tracking graffiti activity through maps, photos and databases. Ballew, Lamoureux and Marysville City Council member Jeff Vaughan also met with middle school students throughout the district last year, as part of the Parks and Recreation “Graffiti Hurts” campaign, to “talk with kids, and not at them” about the problems caused by graffiti, as well as to solicit their suggestions for solutions.

Ballew identified Parks Maintenance Manager Mike Robinson as one of the authorities on who the graffiti taggers are, and what their tags look like. Ballew pointed out that such tags can serve as channels for gang communication, and even those that don’t will affect the aesthetics of the community. To that end, Robinson is set to coordinate a “Tom Sawyer” painting crew, that would work entire corridors of fences, with paint colors already on file, so that fence graffiti could be painted over in the original colors of the fences.

“This is not just kids being kids,” Lamoureux said. “It’s an eyesore, and if left unchecked, it degrades both the appearance and the attitude of a town.”

Lamoureux pointed to the role played by the Marysville Police Department’s school resource officers in keeping abreast of youths’ “extracurricular activities,” as well as the nighttime members of its ProAct Team in apprehending taggers. Combined with surveillance cameras at city parks and a city ordinance requiring anyone who finds graffiti on their property to clean it up within 48 hours, he’s seen “a significant impact” on graffiti activity, with incidents going down and arrests going up.

Tight budgets have precluded an escalation of the anti-graffiti campaign, but Lamoureux promised that it would be maintained at its current “very aggressive” level of enforcement. In addition to the city’s graffiti reporting Web site, at http://ci.marysville.wa.us/graffiti.aspx, Lamoureux urged anyone who sees graffiti tagging in progress to call 9-1-1, so that taggers can be caught in the act.

“We’ve done good work, but our work is not finished,” Lamoureux said. “We’re going to keep working hard at this.”

The Marysville graffiti task force meets the first Thursday of every month at 10 a.m. in the Marysville Police Station. For more information, call Lamoureux at 360-363-8300 or Ballew at 360-363-8400.

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