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Spring cleaning: Police plan to scrub the graffiti off New York City streets in a big way

Commissioner Shea announces new Graffiti clean-up initiative.
Photo by Dean Moses

Vandals beware! Police Commissioner Dermot Shea is renewing the NYPD’s no-holds barred stance on graffiti throughout New York City.

The city’s top cop said Wednesday that graffiti will not be tolerated, and perpetrators will be arrested,  while also announcing his latest initiative to combat this issue. 

As spring slowly blooms, so does acts of vandalism. The Police Department receives more than 6,000 graffiti complaints per year on both public and private property.

In a city where businesses have already suffered massive losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, painting over graffiti is another economic expenditure that they can’t afford.

On Wednesday, Shea met with NYPD executives and community partners on the Lower East Side to discuss their upcoming methods on combating graffiti.

“It’s spring. We are coming out of COVID, but New York City needs a little sprucing up here today. So, that’s exactly what we need to do,” Shea said. “We think it is a great opportunity to continue to build trust and relationships here in New York City. It’s everything that we are trying to do, so why not combine the two things that we need.”

The NYPD’s Graffiti Cleanup campaign invites members of the community to share the location of graffiti-covered areas that require cleaning with the police department. With their input, the NYPD hopes to build a bridge between community leaders, the young members of the Law Enforcement Explorers program, and auxiliary officers.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and fellow officers pose with a t-shirt showcasing the clean-up effort on April 10th. Photo by Dean Moses

Over the next month, the department will solicit information from the community. This project will include officers from all 77 precincts, transit, and housing units. 

“You tell us where we need to clean and we’ll do this together,” Shea said.

NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes shared her excitement over the new program, which will begin on April 10 (weather permitting) and continue on a regular basis with tips from the public.

After receiving information on where to clean, officers and volunteers will work together to paint over graffiti. She calls this initiative a “community solution to community issues.”

“We are asking for help from community business leaders, and just anyone in New York City. Whether you live here or do business here. Come out and help us on April 10,” Holmes implored.

NYPD Chief of Patrol, Juanita Holmes discuses the new campaign. Photo by Dean Moses

The NYPD has received large quantities of paint donations from local businesses and hopes to work with local residents throughout New York City on this beautification process. While there is no set budget, the campaign is scheduled to be an ongoing effort.

“We are going to come out with a purpose. We are going to clean up this graffiti that’s really just all over the neighborhood, making it look bad. But we are all going to come out and it gives us an opportunity to just build that trust, establish and re-establish relationships and have fun together. I’ve been a part of community clean ups throughout my career and they were all great things to bond with the community and to do something with a purpose,” said Chief of Community Affairs Jeffrey B. Maddrey.

In addition, Maddrey shared that volunteers would be given t-shirts in honor of the momentous occasion on April 10.

Shea explained that this endeavor is about recovery and showing the community they care. One of the main prioritized efforts to be made is cleaning up hateful and offensive slogans and symbols. Any gang related markings for territory or warning to rivals will also be investigated and cleaned.

If you would like to send photos or make suggestions on where the department should clean up graffiti, email Graffiti@nypd.org.  This email address was recently established by the NYPD and will be monitored around the clock by a dedicated police officer in the Chief of Department’s office.

An officer stands amidst graffiti on 108 Orchard Street. Photo by Dean Moses

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