City of Toledo unveils graffiti removal unit

Demonstration conducted at International Park

6/11/2013
BLADE STAFF
Andrew Kirk of Toledo's Neighborhood Beautification Action program removes graffiti during the unveiling of the city's new 'Operation Wipeout Graffiti Removal Unit' in International Park.
Andrew Kirk of Toledo's Neighborhood Beautification Action program removes graffiti during the unveiling of the city's new 'Operation Wipeout Graffiti Removal Unit' in International Park.

Takisha Townsend watches as Andrew Kirk of the City of Toledo's Neighborhood Beautification Action program removes graffiti.
Takisha Townsend watches as Andrew Kirk of the City of Toledo's Neighborhood Beautification Action program removes graffiti.

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and representatives of the city’s public service department today revealed the city's new graffiti fighting method at a news conference that included a graffiti removal demonstration at International Park on the city's east side.

The centerpiece of the demonstration was a technicolor, graffiti-art painted 1986 GMC Vandura 3500 box van, which is a converted bread truck turned mobile arsenal unit, according to Jen Sorgenfrei, a spokesman for the mayor's office.

The van has a sign that says, "Operation Wipeout Graffiti Removal Unit." It is manned with a two-person crew and costs about $5,000 annually to operate at about $8 per man hour, according to Rick Akeman, manager of the city's Neighborhood Beautification Action program. About $3,000 will be spent on labor and the remaining $2,000 on chemical supplies, he said.

A federal grant as well as private donations will be used for the project, officials said.

It took such a crew about 10 minutes to lift a two-foot-by-two-foot area of graffiti off a concrete surface and less time to remove a smaller graffiti area from a metal electric box nearby. They sprayed the graffiti with a chemical, scratched the affected surface, and then used a power washer to wash it off with water.

Titled TSW (which stands for "this stuff works"), the chemical is nonabrasive and environmentally safe. It is distributed by Sherwin-Williams Co. and is produced by This Stuff Works, Inc., said David Brown, a protection and marine sales representative at Sherwin-Williams.

Graffiti Master Products has sold the chemical since 1994 after it was first used at cities and schools in the California Bay Area, according to the company's Web site.

Mayor Bell said graffiti markings are "totally inappropriate." "It makes the city look not kept up as it needs to be," the mayor said. "We've got gangs that use them to mark their territories. It is totally unnecessary."

Mr. Akeman said the graffiti fighting effort will be proactive and identify the city areas of immediate concern including the general area of Western Avenue and Broadway in the city's Old South End and the area of West Central Avenue and North Detroit Avenue in the central city.