Cleanup crew tackles graffiti

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Lee Conlin, with the city of Clovis Environmental Response Team, paints a wall Wednesday that was tagged with graffiti. Conlin and his team remove graffiti once a week from city and private property at no cost to property owners.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

There’s a cover-up going on in Clovis.

At least once a week, Clovis’ Environmental Response Team has been cleaning and painting over graffiti, according to supervisor John Zhang.

Zhang’s crew of three was working Wednesday on West 21st Street where about a dozen or more businesses were hit with graffiti early in the week.

“We should be working (property clean-ups) right now but the graffiti is a priority,” said Lee Conlin, Environmental Response Team leader. “We don’t want it to be seen by the public,” Conlin said.

A lot of graffiti is reported through the Public Works Department, but Conlin said his team also looks for it too.

“A lot of places get hit multiple times,” he said.

Conlin said he believes in one area of 21st Street his team is coming up against a habitual culprit who is playing a game with the cleaning crew. It has been going on for more than a year, he said.

“Every time we hit this one certain wall, he tries to hit it as soon as he can,” he said.

Recently the suspect left a message that said, “I got a crew too,” Conlin said, strengthening his theory someone is taunting the team, which was formed a year ago.

“Nobody can seem to catch him,” he said. “Whoever he is, he’s pretty sneaky.”

Clovis Police Chief Dan Blair said there have been arrests in the last year, but there is more work to be done. Officials are still working on plans to file for compensation from guilty parties, he said.

“With the public’s help, I think we’ll be able to correct some of the actions of those doing that,” he said.

Zhang said cleaning up graffiti costs the city around $300 a day in labor costs and $50-$100 in materials per incident.

They have cleaned or covered 361 graffiti locations in the last year, he said.

“We try to do our best to keep the city beautiful and clean and it’s hard to understand why the people do that,” Zhang said.

Zhang said the area around West 21st Street seems to have the highest frequency of graffiti. One business was hit more than seven times in the last year.

Mikel Hays, assistant manager of Pizza Hut on 21st Street, said his store was tagged Monday night.

Hays said it was the second time in a couple of weeks his store was defaced.

It is frustrating, he said. “It’s a lot of extra work, somebody’s lost a lot of time and energy (because of it).”

To report graffiti suspects call 763-7000