National award recognizes Thornton's success at removing graffiti
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POSTED: 02/19/2012 01:00:00 AM MST By Monte Whaley:
The Denver Post Read more: National award recognizes Thornton's success at removing graffiti
THORNTON — Even when he's not working, Randall Janda sees his job staring him in the face. And it infuriates him.
"If I'm going to the grocery store on a Saturday and I see some graffiti, it makes me mad. I take it personally," said Janda, a lifelong Thornton resident and the city's full-time graffiti officer. "I worked my butt off to clean this town up."
In part because of Janda's hard work — and the efforts of other code-enforcement officers along with police and city personnel — Thornton has earned recognition as having one of the best graffiti-removal programs in the country.
Thornton recently was given the 2011 award for Outstanding Achievement in Code Enforcement Techniques by the American Association of Code Enforcement.
The group was impressed by Thornton's multipronged approach to graffiti control, including a $500 fine for anyone convicted of graffiti vandalism in addition to any restitution.
Also, the city in 2008 began removing graffiti from private properties at no cost to the property owner. The program has since expanded to include residential homeowner-association common property as well as businesses. The city uses Colorado Graffiti Blasters, a division of Lightning Mobile, Inc. to handle the business component.
Janda carries with him a waiver that — when signed by the property owner — allows him to enter onto the property to do his work. The waivers may also authorize ongoing graffiti removal, also free of charge.
Thornton began removing graffiti on its own dime for two reasons, said Robin Brown, the city's code-compliance supervisor. "You really want to get rid of the graffiti within about 48 hours, because the quicker you get rid of it, the less likely it will be tagged again," Brown said.
Also, the city wanted to stop revictimizing property owners who are always getting tagged.
"It just kind of adds insult to injury, telling them they have to get rid of the graffiti and they have to pay for it," Brown said. "That's really not good public relations."
The initial cost of buying a power washer and trailer for Janda was about $12,000. The city also had to buy a new pickup to handle the cleanup rig.
Ongoing costs for supplies — cleaners, paint, paint rollers, brushes, buckets, face shields and gloves — are about $3,750.
Lightning Mobile, Inc. who cleans the businesses is paid about $40,000, but that comes from vendor fees collected by the city. Janda, meanwhile, is paid about $48,000.
In return, the city has been able to remove graffiti within 12 hours of getting approval by the property owner. Since 2008, there have been 102 combined convictions for graffiti vandalism and possession of graffiti materials and $11,867 collected in surcharges.
Thousands of community-service hours have been racked up by convicted graffiti offenders while the city has removed 156,684 square feet of graffiti.
Janda appreciates the artistic flair of some taggers. But mostly, he deals with irregular globs of red, black and pink circles and letters on such items as school-ground equipment, overpasses, trails and utility boxes.
Some graffiti is pornographic, while the most ominous tags announce the arrival of a new gang or are placed to provoke a fight between rival groups.
"It just brings down the whole neighborhood," Janda said. "It makes it look trashy and unsafe."
Janda travels throughout the day with his rig, either responding to calls or visiting the usual tagging posts. His territory is huge — Thornton is Colorado's sixth-largest city, with more than 120,000 people spread through nearly 36 square miles.
"It doesn't matter where you live," Janda said. "Low-income, wealthy neighborhoods. Graffiti can be anywhere."
For the smallest tags, Janda uses a spray can of carburetor cleaner. For the large jobs — those on fences — he employs his 300-gallon tank of water, environmentally safe cleaner and a 100-foot-long hose.
He takes a photo of the graffiti to give to the police for possible prosecution later. Janda then meets monthly with a graffiti task force to map out strategies.
His work is lauded by several residents, including 89-year-old Roy Shibata, whose garage and fence surrounding his ranch-style home on East 88th Avenue have been hit several times by taggers.
"I have a big garage door and wooden fence, and I know that's enticing to them," said Shibata, who has lived in his home since 1954. "What he (Janda) does is a real lifesaver for me. I'm too old to get out and do it myself."
National award recognizes Thornton's success at removing graffiti - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_19997140#ixzz2UCX5fNqf
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