Officers in the LAPD’s Northeast Division might have to start carrying another crime fighting tool: a paint brush. Division Capt. Bill Murphy said he’s looking into putting officers in charge of painting out graffiti in the wake of budget cuts and growing public anxiety in Highland Park and nearby neighborhoods over a perceived increased in graffiti and crime. Many Highland Park residents have reported seeing an increase in tagging and graffiti in recent months. That and the March 13 shooting deaths of two Highland Park teenagers have left many residents on edge.
“They freak out if they see graffiti all the time – they equate it with violence.” Murphy said.
While fear may have risen in Highland Park, crime has actually dropped. Violent crime, – such as murder, rape and aggravated assaults – through March 30 in Highland Park is down 16% compared to last year, according to LAPD figures. Property crimes are down 22%.
But it’s hard for residents to take comfort in those stats if they are barraged with anxiety-inducing graffiti. Murphy is not clear whether there is more graffiti or if it takes longer to paint-out as city financed clean-up contractors face tight budgets and growing demand for service. The Northeast Division once had officers committed to supervising graffiti -paint out crews composed of people performing court-ordered community service. “We might have to get back into that,” Murphy said of paint-out duty. “We will make a decision in a couple of weeks.”
MaryAnn Hayashi of Central City Action Committee, which is under contract to paint out graffiti in most of Highland Park and other portions of the Eastside, welcomes the LAPD’s assistance. Her nonprofit, which in February painted out more than 4,600 instances of illegal graffiti on everything from stop signs to fences, absorbed a cut in funding this year without reducing service. But Central City has postponed buying new equipment and is awaiting to hear what funding will be like in the upcoming city budget.
“There is definitely an increase in graffiti,” said Hayashi. “Our response time maybe longer because we have more graffiti takes to remove.”
Photo by Waltarrrr via Flickr