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Volunteers Clean Up
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Mike Hancock, Team-up Against Graffiti (TAG) volunteer, spent Thursday, June 17 painting over graffiti as part of a clean up program coordinated through the Oakdale City Community Development Department. - photo by Kim Van Meter/The Leader

The ugly scrawl of profanity, the illegible ramblings of rival gang members in a turf war, the inconsiderate scribbling of someone with nothing better to do — nothing drags a community down faster than the blight of graffiti.

Budget cuts and downsizing, three words that usually spell doom for city clean up projects, have not affected volunteers who are determined to keep Oakdale beautiful.

The Team-up Against Graffiti (TAG) volunteers, organized through Community Development, were out Thursday and Friday, June 17 and 18, covering up the unsightly graffiti throughout the city with a smile on their faces.

“I can’t stand to see the marking around town. It breaks my heart to see the graffiti,” TAG volunteer Mike Hancock said as he prepared to paint. “We’re making Oakdale what it should be — a special place to be.”

The objective of the program, which kicked off in January 2009, is to remove graffiti within 48 hours of the report. Currently, there are 12 volunteers in the program. They have logged 1,423 hours since the beginning of the effort and removed 678 pieces of graffiti.

Community Development Volunteer Coordinator Brea DeRespini said, “The program has been successful in reposing and removing graffiti in our community. There is always room to continue to grow and develop with any program and the volunteers do a great job giving suggestions and helping to continue to make the program better. They are really the heart of this program and they are very dedicated to helping to make Oakdale a more secure and desirable place to live.”

Ideally, they’d like to have a few more volunteers to bring the number to 20, DeRespini said, adding that volunteer applications are available at the Community Development office at 120 So. Sierra Ave. Volunteers must be 18 years of age, pass a background check, and have an acceptable DMV record.

Volunteer Barbara Roberson said, “I take pride in Oakdale. The community has a lot to offer and I want to keep it looking nice for everyone. It’s just so sad and I get very upset about it.”

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as picking up the phone and having the graffiti removed.

While the TAG team strives to have the graffiti covered within 48 hours, there are some challenges in achieving that goal.

“When graffiti is on private property the volunteers cannot remove it until we have consent from the property owner and that can take a week to 45 days,” DeRespini explained. “TAG follows the code enforcement procedures when contacting the property owner. It is extremely difficult to gain consent when the property is foreclosed or the property owner lives out of the area.”

But even so, the volunteers don’t let obstacles take away their enthusiasm and their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

“The volunteers are always stopped while they are out cleaning and thanked by other community members. It seems the community really appreciates that the graffiti is removed. For example, when the program was started there was a resident who had their home tagged every other week. Volunteers painted the residence 18 times. The graffiti has finally stopped and the homeowner is so appreciative of the volunteers’ help.”

Sending the message that graffiti isn’t tolerated and will be immediately taken down is the best way to discourage vandals from tagging but community members need to report the graffiti to the proper authorities.

Graffiti should be reported to the police department as well as reporting it to TAG via email or phone.

Community members may see the graffiti and think someone else has already reported it but that is not always the case, DeRespini said.

While the program supplies come from the Community Development budget (paint, chemicals, painting supplies), DeRespini is researching grants through Home Depot and Lowes to help make this program self sustaining. The volunteers supply the manpower and staff supplies the information, sends enforcement letters and coordinates the program.

There will be a graffiti and park clean-up day on Saturday, July 10 starting a 9 a.m. at Dorada Park and volunteers are welcome.



How To Report Graffiti


If you have graffiti in your neighborhood and would like to see it removed, following the proper channels will result in success.


1. Report the graffiti to the police department at 847-2231.

2. Report the graffiti to the TAG program at 845-3591 or via email at


By working together, the community can help wipe out unsightly blight.

Those interested in volunteering, contact Volunteer Coordinator Brea DeRespini at