Sheriff Takes Aim at Plague of Graffiti in Worcester

By Samantha Allen

Telegram & Gazette

May 17, 2015

 

Officer Daniel Joslyn from the Worcester County Sheriff's Department removes graffiti from a dumpster on Temple Street, using ground walnut shells in an abrasive blaster.

 

 

Officer Daniel Joslyn from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department removes graffiti from a dumpster on Temple Street, using ground walnut shells in an abrasive blaster.

 

 

WORCESTER – With the help of a powerful machine, some crushed walnut shells and a crew of inmates, Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis hopes to remove unwanted graffiti from walls in Worcester and surrounding towns.

On Friday, the Worcester County sheriff unveiled a new truck designed to help scrub away paint sprayed on buildings. ACE Temperature Control on Ward Street and The Compass Tavern on Harding Street had graffiti “tags” blown away in a matter of minutes by the team.

“It’s happening so regularly around here and that’s part of the reason why I was so focused on this, because graffiti is like a weed,” Mr. Evangelidis said. “When you don’t stay on top of it, it seems to grow out of control. But when you stay on top of it, the more you prevent it. So we’re just determined to make this service available.”

Mr. Evangelidis said he first set out to help Worcester and the county when he heard of a rash of tagging in late 2013. At that time, dozens of buildings in the city were defaced, and a short time later police arrested and charged two men with some of the crimes.

Worcester has a law that requires property owners to remove graffiti within a certain amount of time. The Department of Inspectional Services can start the clock on a 7-day removal countdown.

After that owners face a fine of $25 per day. City staff said, however, it is “extremely rare” for owners to be fined.  It has only happened once, according to John Hill, spokesman for the city manager’s office.

Mr. Evangelidis said previously that he went to community meetings and heard about the struggles local businesses were facing keeping up with graffiti removal. So he set out to purchase the truck, following an example set by other sheriffs across Massachusetts, he said. Now, the sheriff says, he’d like to help out any business that needs assistance in Worcester County, free of charge, through his department’s inmate work program.

Friday morning, a supervising officer blasted the walls of the local businesses with a power wash-style unit that uses environmentally-friendly matter, including crushed nut shells, to remove the offending paint. Inmates were on hand to clean up. The crew offered to return to the tavern to retouch the paint if needed.

In a test round, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department came out a few weeks ago to remove graffiti at Dooley’s Cleaners on Pleasant Street. Manager Andy J. Baxter said his building was tagged in 2013.

Mr. Baxter said he was relieved to have the graffiti removed and called it a much-needed service for the community.

“They really did an awesome job,” he said. “(Graffiti) is a sign of blight. Some small businesses can’t afford to hire someone.”