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Cover Story : Graffiti: Young volunteers spread 275 gallons of paint in a day to save the city about $15,000 and six weeks of work.

More than 300 volunteers, most of them teen-agers, wielded brushes and rollers to paint out graffiti in South Gate, saving the city about $15,000.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, crews of “graffiti busters” dispersed from three locations to paint over graffiti on walls, buildings and trash bins. By the end of the day, 275 gallons of paint had been used to cover a total of 120,000 square feet of graffiti, work that officials said would have taken city crews six weeks.

South Gate officials developed the volunteer program after losing federal funds that had been used for graffiti removal in some areas of the city.

“We hope this will be a good kickoff for our Adopt-a-Block program created to get residents to become more proactive,” said Todd W. Argow, South Gate’s chief administrative officer. “We don’t want them to just call the city when they see graffiti in their neighborhood.”

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Under the Adopt-a-Block program, the city will give a free gallon of paint to residents who are willing to paint over graffiti in their neighborhoods.

Several businesses and churches have adopted their blocks. Employees check the area for graffiti each day and paint it over as soon as it is found.

“The key to graffiti abatement is to get rid of it as soon as possible,” said Jim Biery, director of the Public Works Department. “Hitting it quickly is important because it deters gang members because they spend time on their artwork and the next day it is gone. It’s like a weed. If you get rid of it as soon as it is up, you take away the satisfaction of the gang members’ seeing their work.”

For the rest of the 1991 fiscal year, paint for the purpose of graffiti removal will be provided by the city, as long as proof of residency is shown. The paint, which can be obtained only one gallon at a time, is available at Golden State Paint, 12012 Garfield Ave.

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“One thing South Gate has going for it is community pride and it is this community pride we hope to harness to eradicate this problem,” Argow said.


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