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Santa Clarita's cleanup crew

Posted: August 4, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2014 2:00 a.m.

A member of the city of Santa Clarita's Graffiti Task Force works to clean a graffiti-plauged area of Canyon Country. Signal photo by Austin Dave.

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“Here by night, gone by morning.”

With an army of white paint-filled buckets and rollers, five men in gray polo shirts chipped away at layers of a long-standing eastside eyesore.

The group fights the summer heat — each drop of sweat a glowing representative of a determination to transform a forgotten lot into a clean, graffiti-free area.

The 10-man unit, known as the Santa Clarita Graffiti Task Force, was established in 2006 with a mission to reverse the effects of vandalism and beautify troublesome locations within Santa Clarita city limits.

“We actually enjoy our jobs quite a bit,” said Justin Cummings, graffiti removal coordinator for the city.

The task force addressed the needs of a remote area of Canyon Country near Scherzinger Lane last Thursday, where the graffiti-clad remnants of an abandoned building lay, enclosed in a heap of rusty spray cans, couch cushions and empty alcohol containers.

Though they can’t remove the walls, the task force works to coat them in a shiny white congruent color, removing evidence of a past left behind by vandals.

Cummings and his squad want to leave behind two messages to would-be vandals: you cannot hide, and your actions will not be tolerated.

“It’s been a hotbed of graffiti recently, so we’re focusing on removing the graffiti and getting the trash cleaned up,” Cummings said, standing amid a pile of burned wood logs.

“It can be a rough job, especially in the heat of summer, but we get to see the fruits of our labor,” he said.

In 24 hours from the moment a vandal strikes, the team sets out in three modified heavy-duty trucks to correct the problem, reverse the effects and add the information to database of incidences — all before residents see it.

“This is a huge boost to our moral,” Cummings said, motioning to the transformation taking place to his left.

“We know the hotspots in the city,” Cummings said. “You find there are trends to certain things.”

During the summer, unsupervised teenagers are prone to making poor choices, such as marking walls with what they may regard as street art. Others see it as vandalism.

“Generally speaking, when kids get out of school, there can be a spike (in graffiti),” Cummings said.

Through a combination of hitting the streets and employing software, the team tracks all graffiti within city limits and determines when and where vandals will strike.

The task force’s patrols account for 74 percent of graffiti reporting, but they also seek public assistance to find trouble spots.

“It’s important to call and let us know where the graffiti is,” Cummings said.

To report vandalism, you can call the task force’s hotline at (661) 25-CLEAN or fillout an e-service request using the city’s website:

“It’s a huge help for us when citizens call in graffiti,” Cummings said. “We can address the problem faster and get it taken care of quickly.”


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