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Cleaning up Victoria

June 30, 2011 at 1:30 a.m.

Thomas Figueroa uses a power washer to clean graffiti off a fence Thursday along the Hike and Bike Trail between Airline and Ben Jordan Roads while volunteering for Keep Victoria Beautiful's "Graffiti Wipe Out." Tteams of volunteers took on several graffiti-ed areas of Victoria and took the first step in reducing the amount of graffiti in the city.

Keep Victoria Beautiful partnered with local businesses and volunteers to reduce graffiti across the city of Victoria on Thursday evening.

Twenty-five volunteers divided into teams deployed to a variety of locations across the city to pressure wash wooden fences and paint over graffiti on buildings.

Thomas Yantis, the executive director of Keep Victoria Beautiful, said the reduction of graffiti is the first step towards wiping out graffiti in the city entirely.

"Next, we will need to identify those responsible for the graffiti," said Yantis, who anticipates that the justice system will mandate those responsible for spraying graffiti to maintain the areas they defaced. In other words, those who committed the crimes must be accountable.

The nonprofit organization dedicated to "improving the appearance of the community through education and interaction" organized this project as parts of the Graffiti Reduction Identification Partnership with more than 20 local businesses, but Yantis said they are heavily reliant on community volunteers.

"All of our activities are about the volunteers; they make it happen," Yantis said. "Without them, I'm a chief without Indians."

Yantis said one of the their key partners in the GRIP endeavor is the Crime Prevention Unit of the Victoria Police Department.

The CPU organized 10 volunteers through the Civilian Police Academy and 12 volunteers from the Deveruex Foundation.

Debbie Vaughn, 53, of Victoria, from the second class of the Civilian Police Academy, said she is especially happy to help with this community service event.

"This is a good project because everyone uses the trail a lot," Vaughn said. "But the graffiti is a deterrent for people to bring their children to the trail."

The reduction of graffiti is receiving positive feedback from the community.

"Thank you," bicyclists yelled as they passed the volunteers pressure washing graffiti on the hike-and-bike trail.

Randi Furman, 29, of Victoria, who lives in one of the houses behind the trail, came out to volunteer as well.

"It's just nice to see it gone," Furman said. "This is supposed to be a family trail."

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