Graffiti abatement by teens

Teens & Cops Graffiti Abatement Team makes news
Focus Daily News

CEDAR HILL—While determining just how much graffiti is a problem in a city, and while realizing too that the answer is often more of an elusive determination than anything else, one Cedar Hill Police Officer has decided any graffiti at all is too much.

Perhaps it was after Cedar Hill’s recent, and very highly publicized, graffiti incident that took place in the Kingswood Neighborhood that brought city graffiti to the forefront. However, even now, Cedar Hill Public Information Officer, Corky Brown says that overall graffiti is not a major problem in Cedar Hill, “[It is] one of those nagging things. It’s important for the city because people are quick to judge by appearances,” Brown says.

Problem or not, Cedar Hill Police Officer Tammie Cooper decided something needed to be done anyway.

On the city’s police force since February 2006, Officer Cooper says she actually decided to start the city’s new “Graffiti Abatement Program,” which kicks off this week, for several reasons one being that she does feel the city has a problem with graffiti.

“We do have a problem with graffiti in our city and my unit which is P.A.C.T (police and community together) - crime prevention and community service, will usually receive complaints about graffiti from the citizens,” she explains. “The citizens were concerned that it was not being removed quickly enough and who removes it from vacant properties and who will assist the citizens who may not have the means to remove.”

In conversation with her supervisor about citizen concerns, Officer Cooper says she explained that she thought it would be a good idea to get local youths to volunteer to remove graffiti as well as getting someone to donate supplies. A good idea – Officer Cooper moved forward with her plan.

“This program was really easy to get started because of all the support,” she adds, giving credit as well to Cedar Hill’s Police Chief Steve Rhodes who she says “was very supportive with my idea for the program and encouraged me to get it started.”

Officer Cooper also says she shared her idea with Stacey Graves the Code enforcement Supervisor who is responsible for code violations such as graffiti removal.

“Stacy was really excited about the program and has given me her full support.”

Home Depot came onboard when Officer Cooper asked the local store manager, Darrell Garrett for help. He allowed her to take a cart around the store and get the supplies she needed -- approximately $200 worth, in fact. Chick-Fil-A and Dial One Plumbing in Cedar Hill also pitched in for lunch and water donations agreeing to support the program.

Fast forward to this week, the first in a number of upcoming cleanups to be held weekly this summer, the first one having taken place on Wednesday at Cedar Hill Road under the FM1382 bridge --southeast of Uptown Village.

Local teenagers working alongside police officers started the process of clean up the city of its existing graffiti.

“I have approximately 10 youths who have committed to volunteer and I’m still receiving emails and calls from youths as well as adults who want to volunteer,” Officer Cooper says. “I will welcome youths and adults to come out and help support their community by volunteering in this program.”

When putting the plan together Office Cooper says she initially reached out to youths at the schools and sent and email to local crime watch members informing them about the idea.

“They were more than willing to volunteer,” she says of the youths and the members of the roughly 50 crime watch neighborhood groups in the city.

If the graffiti is on private property, they will clean that too, but Officer Cooper says she must have the property owner sign a waiver, giving the group permission to remove it.

With weekly removals taking place from now until the end of August, Officer Cooper adds, “This program is important overall to the city because it will not cost the city money, and also we're sending a message to the community that we are not ignoring the graffiti.

The neighborhood groups are excited because they now know the graffiti will be removed and they can be involved.”

As for what else the kids get out of it; Officer Cooper says they will receive volunteer hours, which can be used for school credits or college applications.

“I want to build positive relationships with these youths as a police officer,” she concludes. “I feel it’s important for these youths to engage with police officer in a positive aspect especially at an early age.”