State Senator John Fonfara is currently working to secure funding for “Operation Spotless City,” a program that backers say will be “the first full-scale attempt ever to completely wipe Hartford of its graffiti blight.”
Fonfara said he is hoping to get the funding from several utility and communications companies, including AT&T, Connecticut Natural Gas, Connecticut Light & Power, United Illuminating, the Metropolitan District Commission and cable television providers. Fonfara said he decided to approach these particular companies because their utility boxes are often the targets of graffiti vandals.
Operation Spotless City would be a vast expansion of Knox Parks Foundation’s current anti-graffiti campaign, which receives its primary funding from the City of Hartford. AT&T has also donated a van and a pick-up truck to Knox to assist its anti-graffiti efforts.
According to a statement from Hartford’s Anti-Graffiti Task Force, “In 2009, Knox cleaned graffiti from 419 buildings and utility boxes. There were 2125 incidences of graffiti in Hartford that year. At the current level of funding, vandals create graffiti faster than Knox can remove it.”
In addition to Fonfara and Knox, the Anti-Graffiti Task Force includes Mayor Pedro Segarra, City Councilman Jim Boucher, Hartford Crime Stoppers, Hartford Business Improvement District, Hartford Police Department and Hartford Areas Rally Together. The Task Force is mounting a three-pronged assault on graffiti: education, enforcement and eradication. Operation Spotless City is the eradication element of the plan.
According to Knox, Operation Spotless City would cost approximately $137,000 for its first six months and $60,000 for each additional six-month period.
In the initial stage of the program, Knox will use two work crews, one to remove graffiti and the other to paint over graffiti that cannot be removed.
Workers will be drawn from Knox’s Green Crew, most of whom are city residents, who will be certified by Sherwin Williams as Graffiti Abatement Specialists.
For the purposes of the program, Hartford will be divided into five sections: Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, Northwest and Central Business District (CBD). The Hartford Business Improvement District will be responsible for the CBD. The Knox crews will spend one day a week in the remaining four sections: Monday, Southwest; Tuesday, Southeast; Wednesday, Northeast; and Thursday, Northwest. Friday will used to respond to graffiti that has been called into the City’s 311 service and to accommodate postponements due to bad weather.
Fonfara said that eliminating graffiti shortly after it is created is the key to an overall reduction in this type of vandalism. “In some ways, people who create graffiti are like arsonists, they want to admire their work.”
According to a statement from the Anti-Graffiti Task Force, “The key to reversing Hartford’s graffiti trend is the rapid removal of graffiti throughout the city. Graffiti removed within 24 hours has only a 10 percent chance of recurrence. Graffiti removed after two weeks has almost a 100 percent chance of recurrence.”