KEEPING HATE OFF THE WALLS
By Veronica Rocha

Glendale News Press
March 18 2009
CA

Employee removes graffiti as fast as possible to keep residents from
being offended.

CENTRAL GLENDALE -- City employee Javier Covarrubias sprayed a
solvent liquid on "hate graffiti" and gang-related graffiti Tuesday
spray-painted on an exterior wall at the First Evangelical Church
on Broadway.

Church leaders found profanity directed at Armenians spray-painted
in red along a brick wall, next to black gang tagging Saturday morning.

The hate graffiti was the eighth marking of its kind Covarrubias
removed in the city in two days, he said.

Covarrubias and another city employee cleaned markings off of 250,691
square feet at 2,650 sites for the 2007-08 fiscal year, said John
Brownell, the city's Neighborhood Services supervisor. So far this
fiscal year, they have removed about 150,000 square feet of graffiti
off of 1,828 sites throughout the city, he said.

"We are probably in line to either meet or exceed the past year's
total," Brownell said.

Police have received six reports of hate graffiti -- defined as
graffiti directed at a particular ethnic, religious or other group
-- since Monday, and the department's Special Enforcement Detail and
Gang Detail are investigating the incidents, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom
Lorenz said.

"There has been an increase of graffiti that may be directed toward
ethnic gangs," he said.

The hate graffiti was likely committed by an individual or a group,
Lorenz said. The graffiti appeared as though it was committed by
young people, he said.

"They certainly aren't sophisticated," Lorenz said.

Police have evidence that will likely lead to arrests in connection
with the graffiti incidents, he said.

Hate graffiti is a rare sight around town, Lorenz said.

Covarrubias removed graffiti Monday from Colorado Street and Pacific
Avenue, Chevy Chase Drive and Glendale Avenue and Broadway and Verdugo
Road, he said.

He keeps track of graffiti he removes and passes the information on
to police for investigations, Covarrubias said.

Most of the graffiti on the church's exterior wall was removed Tuesday
after Covarrubias sprayed the solvent, scrubbed it with a brush and
used a steam-pressurized washer to clean off the spray paint.

Covarrubias was going to go back later to remove the remaining
markings, he said.

He cleans 15 to 20 sites a day, Covarrubias said.

And city officials say they have recently seen a spike in
billboard-sized gang or tagging crew graffiti in the southern portion
of the city.

Larger markings, which were 50 to 60 feet long and 8 feet tall,
have been spray-painted on public and private properties since the
beginning of the year, Brownell said. The massive markings have become
more common than smaller tagging, which was often seen in past years,
he said.

Covarrubias and another city employee try to remove gang and hate
graffiti within 24 hours, Brownell said. Hate markings can be offensive
to community members and seen by children, and gang graffiti can
start conflicts between rival gangs, he said.

Other graffiti is usually removed within 48 hours on city property,
and private property owners are given 10 days to remove the markings.

"We just try to take it down as quickly as we can," he said.

Removing the graffiti has become easier in recent years because city
staff members have started using a water-soluble liquid, Covarrubias
said.

He used a sandblaster before, which often left him covered in sand
at the end of a work day, he said.

The water-soluble liquid is better for the environment and his health,
said Covarrubias, who last year won the city's Rosie Award, given to
employees who exemplify devotion to customer service.

In his nine years with the city, a vandal has never approached him
while he removed graffiti, he said.

"Glendale is a safe city," Covarrubias said. "[Residents] know that
we are out there helping them."

But when he was working in Pacoima, two gang members in two separate
incidents pointed guns at him and told him to stop removing the
graffiti, Covarrubias said.

He often considers the risk in removing graffiti from properties.

"I think about it now because I have a little boy," he said.

But Covarrubias said he is doing what is best for the city.

"I am keeping the bling in the jewel city," he said.