YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


The Cat-and-Mouse War Against Taggers

March 21, 1993|Yeu-Wei Yee heads the anti-graffiti committee for the Echo Park Improvement Assn. and recruits volunteers for "paint-outs" in the community every other month. The 47-year-old teaches third- and fourth-grade at Tenth Street Elementary School in Pico-Union. He was interviewed by Mary Helen Berg.

I decided to tackle graffiti because I don't like to see it. My gut reaction is that it looks ugly and my second reaction is that it's a disrespectful thing to do to the community. It's one group of people that are flouting their existence over other people's. I don't want gangs to assume that they can divide the community to their liking.

Painting out is really a cat-and-mouse game. They go out at night; we go out early in the morning. They go out the next night; we go out the next morning. Painting over the same walls again and again causes a certain amount of despair but the alternative is to have a place that looks so neglected that people who live there won't like being there. I want to enjoy where I'm living.

Painting out is kind of like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill but I keep hoping that maybe some of the kids will think: "Well, this neighborhood does care so we can't just take it over."

We know we are only addressing a symptom and not curing the patient by any means. It is only one of the things that should be done to improve things. It's certainly better than just shrugging about the neighborhood.

For those who believe that what we're doing is futile, I have to say they didn't get the right education in school or the right upbringing. It's only if everybody does a little bit that anything ever gets done. You can't rely on city government to make your life perfect for you. You shouldn't expect that.

You have to do it yourself.

The Saturday before the (March 7) Los Angeles Marathon about 70 of us painted out graffiti. We thought: "We are not going to let those kids put up graffiti tonight so that when Channel 13 pans the runners tomorrow all the gang graffiti will be on TV."

So a group of us drove around until 2 in the morning patrolling the sites. We didn't catch anybody doing it but we did find some new graffiti where we had just painted out. So about 2 o'clock that Sunday morning we painted again. I'd say we won that one.

It's psychological warfare. We're saying we'll be damned if they are going to get the best of us and they're saying, "Look at those fools." But they didn't get their 15 minutes of glory.

We just want to show these people that they can't win.

Los Angeles Times Articles