Inmates Erasing Gardner Graffiti

Part of sheriff’s office program

Katie Landeck

Gardner News

GARDNER  Blasting the wall behind the Parker Street GFA Federal Credit Union with crushed walnut shells, it took the Worcester County Sheriff’s anti-graffiti team an hour to remove a graffiti tag that’s long been an eyesore.

News staff photo by Katie Landeck Deputy Sheriff Daniel Joslyn uses a machine to erase a graffiti tag behind GFA on Parker Street in Gardner on Wednesday. It took about five minutes to erase the mark, leaving behind an empty patch of wall to be painted over.

Deputy Sheriff Daniel Joslyn uses a machine to erase a graffiti tag behind GFA on Parker Street inGardner on Wednesday. It took about five minutes to erase the mark, leaving behind an empty patch of wall to be painted over.

“With resources stretched thin, people don’t have the resources to deal with graffiti,” explained Sheriff Lew Evangeli­dis. “This is a service we can provide free of charge.”

Last month, Mr. Evangelidis unveiled a new inmate work program tackling unwanted graffiti in Worcester County. Through the program, municipalities and private businesses can sign up to have a crew come out and scrub their walls clean of graffiti with a sandblaster-like unit.

“If you don’t stay on top of it, it grows like a weed,” said Mr. Evangelidis.

The unit worked in Gardner this week, cleaning up the Simplex building, the GFA parking lot, and by Tanguay Jewelers downtown.

“The mayor jumped right on this program,” said Mr. Evangelidis.

Mayor Mark Hawke has repeatedly requested the service through his Facebook page. He has also helped create new programs in the city — such as a mural partnership with Mount Wachusett Community College — to deter graffiti.

City Councillor Nathan Boudreau said he was grateful to see the anti-graffiti team in his ward.

“This is the beautification of a highly visible spot,” he said. “It’s wonderful to get a helping hand from the sheriff.”

News staff photo by Katie Landeck Deputy Sheriff Daniel Joslyn, second from right, shows Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, far left, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis and Ward 3 City Councillor Nathan Boudreau graffiti at the GFA building on Parker Street in Gardner on Wednesday.

Deputy Sheriff Daniel Joslyn, second from right, shows Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, far left, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis and Ward 3 City Councillor Nathan Boudreau graffiti at the GFAbuilding on Parker Street inGardner on Wednesday.

The machine that removes the spray paint is operated by a supervising officer, and one or two inmates help and handle the clean-up.

As a safety precaution, the inmates in the program typically do not have a history of graffiti or known affiliations with gangs, according to Mr. Evangelidis. Many gang members refuse to remove a tag out of loyalty or fear of repercussions.

On Wednesday morning, inmate Michael Thomas was helping Officer Daniel Joslyn. With two months left on his sentence, Mr. Thomas was grateful to be involved in the program.

“I worked some in my life as much as I lived on the street,” he said. “I never thought I would be doing this. … It’s good experience and I learn a lot of different jobs so I’m ready for the outside.”

The program started after Mr. Evangelidis heard concerns from many Worcester business owners, who are threatened with a fine if they don’t clean up graffiti within a week of being tagged.

“We only do it at the request of the community,” Mr. Evangelidis said.

How long it takes to remove graffiti depends on the surface, age and type of paint, according to Mr. Joslyn. The bags of crushed walnut shells cost about $50 each.

“It’s a cost we can absorb,” Mr. Evangelidis said.