All that paint – painted over

The Sentinel and Enterprise
By Michael Hartwell

FITCHBURG — Inmate workers are spreading paint over graffiti this week in Fitchburg courtesy of a pilot program from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis said the Graffiti Removal Unit, if adopted, will transport inmate workers across the county to remove signs of vandalism on public property.

“Fitchburg is first because it came up in a discussion on community needs,” said Evangelidis.

On Wednesday he visited a crew of six inmates using gray paint on a large crumbling wall off Cleghorn Street. Some of the painted letters were twice as tall as the
workers, who used rollers with long handles to reach the top.

Gary Withington, superintendent of streets for the Fitchburg Department of Public Works, said the crew started work on Monday, but ran into problems with the heavy rainfall.

He said his department will respond quickly to remove graffiti that is vulgar or gang-related, but can’t respond to everything and is glad to have the extra help from the inmates. He said there are still dozens of places that will be targeted in the city this week.

Evangelidis said the program is a reward for inmates who meet certain criteria. They have to maintain good behavior, be near the end of their sentences and cannot have violent histories. A deputy accompanies them at the work sites.
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For legal reasons, Evangelidis said the program will only allow inmates to remove graffiti from public buildings, not private ones.

“I think it’s fantastic, not just for the city of Fitchburg, but for the region,” said Mayor Lisa Wong. She thanked Evangelidis and his office for the help.

Wong said Fitchburg was chosen as the first city for the pilot program shortly after a conversation she had with Evangelidis about graffiti.

Police Chief Robert DeMoura said graffiti in Fitchburg was a big problem until around 2009 when the city began cracking down on it. But there’s still work to be done, he said.

He said residents should report graffiti to his department to assist the city in its removal.