Jeff Chancellor knows his work will never end.
His full-time job is to drive around Tracy in the city’s “graffiti buster” truck and erase the vandalism of taggers. His regular route includes all of the city’s parks and soundwalls on major roads through town.
At El Pescadero Park, he finds graffiti on the skate track just about every day. He can also count on finding graffiti in the bathrooms of Tracy Branch Library and nearly every park, usually scrawled with felt-tip markers.
Ten years ago, wiping out graffiti took up about half his time as a public works maintenance assistant. Today, it takes up all his time.
“It’s like a war. You have to keep right at it,” he said as he prepared to paint a soundwall behind homes on Colony Drive.
That area is not on his regular route, but another public works crew clearing tumbleweeds saw that a local gang had spray-painted graffiti over a rival gang’s graffiti.
It only takes him a few minutes, using just a paint roller and a bucket of beige paint, to cover the multicolored monikers and profanities. He can do the job faster when he uses the spray paint rig in the “graffiti buster” trailer. He’s also glad to share his opinion of the tags he’s just covered.
“You’ve got to care for where you live,” he said. “There’s no excuse for graffiti. It’s not an art form or poetic license. It’s a crime.”
It also costs the city more than $76,000 a year, including more than $12,000 worth of paint and other supplies. Robert Gravelle, public works supervisor for the city, said since July the paint bill alone is about $4,700.
Gravelle said the city had a policy of covering graffiti within a couple of days when he came to Tracy a little more than a year ago, but today his policy is to paint over graffiti on city property within 24 hours. He worked for a company that owned and managed shopping centers, which also get a lot of graffiti, and learned that quick cleanup of vandalism is a deterrent to more vandalism.
“We had the same philosophy: abate graffiti as soon as you find it,” he said.
He said about half of the cover-ups come from the city’s graffiti hotline, which is monitored by the Tracy Police Department. The hotline’s voice mailbox can fill up quickly if taggers are busy, Gravelle said.
There are also places the city doesn’t cover. It’s up to private property owners to cover graffiti on their walls, but Gravelle pointed out some of the businesses and shopping centers on Grant Line Road where graffiti is covered quickly.
The city doesn’t cover graffiti at schools, either, but Tracy Unified School District maintenance director Bill Willner said that graffiti control is the first daily task for his workers.
“How soon is it covered up As fast as we can get to it,” Willner said. “Especially at the grade schools. We want to get it covered before the kids get there.”
To reach reporter Bob Brownne, call 830-4227 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.