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Cleanup time: NYPD, Shea head up big blitz in Brooklyn and beyond to wipe out graffiti

Top cop Commissioner Dermot Shea poses with cleanup volunteers.
Photo by Dean Moses

The NYPD and community members are cleaning up graffiti, one brush stroke at a time, across the city Saturday — and even the city’s top cop rolled up his sleeves to help out. 

Police hope to begin a clean slate in the public eye for spring/summer 2021 by working with residents and businesses to remove graffiti marring private property all over the city.

Last year, NYPD officials received over 6,000 complaints regarding rogue artists who had tagged storefronts and apartment buildings. Leaving their mark with spray can after spray can, many residents feel as though vandals have left much of the five boroughs a wasteland of crude caricatures and illegible scribblings.

Using paint donated by local businesses, the NYPD commissioner himself, Dermot Shea, has pledged to clean up crime — in all of its forms. On Saturday morning, he joined cops and volunteers in repainting a graffiti-marred supermarket in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

“We have a lot of work to do and that’s the bottom line. We have a lot of graffiti to clean up and it’s the time to start rolling up our sleeves and getting to it,” Shea said.

Commissioner Shea joins in the cleanup. Photo by Dean Moses
An army of paint brushes hit the wall. Photo by Dean Moses

Although this cleanup initiative is taking place citywide within the confines of all 77 NYPD precincts, Shea came to 454 Wyckoff Ave. in Brooklyn to oversee the kick-off with members of the 83rd Precinct and their Community Affairs team, volunteers, court officers, NYPD Explorers, and family members.

With brushes and paint rollers leaning on marred walls, an army of both community members and NYPD officers — including many children — were at the ready to make New York look new again.

Paint was splatted over face and shirt. Photo by Dean Moses

After a year ridden with strife and turbulent relations between officers and members of the public following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, Shea and Chief of Community Affairs Jeffrey B. Maddrey believe this effort is also a step in the right direction in terms of strengthening trust between the NYPD and the public.

“Policing is always about trust,” Shea said. “The men and women from the New York Police Department have been working hand in hand through our neighborhood policing within the community we serve.”

Chief Maddrey shows off his DJ skills. Photo by Dean Moses

Likewise, Chief Maddrey, who spent some of the morning standing over a turntable, showing off his DJ skills, spoke with amNewYork Metro about the importance of citizen, officer rapport. The chief spoke bluntly about the state of affairs but believes things are on the mend and this latest effort focuses on building trust and making a positive impact on the community.

“It’s like everything else. When you have relationships and you have difficult times, what do you do? You get back, you rebuild, you speak, you work together and do things that make a positive impact. That’s how you usually rebuild relationships. We have a lot of great relationships out here. A lot of relationships that are strong, and some that are not. Every day we are looking to build those relationships because we want them to all be strong,” Maddrey said.

Chief Maddrey spoke with amNewYork Metro about the project. Photo by Dean Moses

The sun was shining as dozens of volunteers, members of NYPD Community Affairs and officer families donned black and blue t-shirts emblazoned with the words, “Community and Police Graffiti Cleanup.” 

Heather Lanning and her children wanted to show support for her husband, Danny, who works with the NYPD’s Community Affairs Office as well as taking the time to teach her children the importance of volunteerism. 

“We are here to cover up some graffiti,” Lanning said, smiling holding her two sons, adding, “They are really excited to be here and paint some graffiti and make the community look a little better for everybody. It’s a good feeling to be here with them.” 

The Lanning family have frequent conversations about the important work police officers do to keep New York safe, and the dangers that come along with that responsibility. They hope that this effort will showcase to the neighborhood the humanity of the police force. 

With so many hands working together, it took a matter of minutes for the graffiti to disappear. Photo by Dean Moses

“It’s really great working with Community Affairs and the NYPD being out here to try to fix that tension between community and police officers. Hopefully they see us out here with our families doing something good for their community so that hopefully they can bridge that gap and ease some of the tension,” Lanning said. 

Shea was extremely impressed with the turnout and said that April 10 only marks the beginning of an endeavor they hope will run all summer long, albeit on a smaller scale.  He implores New Yorkers to send photos or make suggestions regarding where they would like the department to cleanup graffiti next by emailing Graffiti@nypd.org. 

So far, there are over 537 locations that have been identified from community outreach, and as progress is made, a before and after photo will be uploaded onto the NYPD’s Twitter page as well as a picture of the team that volunteered to remove the graffiti.

Both long and small brushes were used. Photo by Dean Moses

“This is the beginning and not the end,” Shea said, requesting that members in the community continue to join in their efforts to clean up the graffiti. “This is not a problem that can’t be defeated. It’s really simple. We just have to get to it, put are mind to it, roll up our sleeves, work with the community and the businesses and we’ll get it back to where it needed to be.”

Even elevated graffiti proved to be no issue. Photo by Dean Moses

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