Cleaning up tagging and graffiti on sidewalks and streets across Echo Park and other several other Eastside neighborhoods will be taking much longer after a high-pressure water blaster used to remove the spray paint was stolen. Central City Action Committee, the Angeleno Heights-based agency hired by the city to clean up much of the area’s graffiti, said that one of its two water blasters and trailers was stolen last week after thieves broke into a locked maintenance yard. The agency said replacing the old equipment will be difficult since the insurance coverage won’t come close to paying the estimated $12,000 to buy a new washer and trailer. As a result, it’s taking twice as long – almost two weeks – to respond to requests to scrub out sidewalk tagging, a problem that has grown in recent years, said David Bermudez, who heads Central City’s anti-graffiti crew.
So far this year, Central City has received 868 requests to clean up sidewalk tagging, a job that is handled with the aid of the water blaster. In addition, the blasters are used to clean up tagged trees, brick walls and other surfaces. As crews have become faster to paint over graffiti and tagging on walls, many vandals have changed their tactic, using sidewalks and streets as their canvas because it will take longer to remove. Bermudez said he has seen an increase on sidewalk tagging near bus stops used by school students. “It takes longer to get to it,” Bermudez said.
Bermudez said the stolen equipment was more than 10 years old. It included an aging trailer that Bermudez had painted blue and a white, plastic 300-gallon water tank that stood on its end. Despite its age, Bermudez such equipment will mostly likely be resold and used by individuals to pressure wash parking lots and other pieces of pavement. “They can make some money using it,” he said.
The old equipment might end up might end up generating cash for someone else but it has put Central City in a financial bind. Executive Director Maryanne Hayashi said there is no room in her budget to buy new equipment. So, for now, Central City will have to rely on one water blaster to serve an area stretching from Westlake to Highland Park. That means a lot of people are waiting for the sidewalks to get cleaned up. “We are backlogged now.”