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A Special Report: Jobs : BOYLE HEIGHTS : 'Mothers' Paint-Out Targets Taggers

July 11, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

The pink paint didn't quite match the darker wall, but store owners on Whittier Boulevard didn't mind the difference. The painters were covering fresh graffiti from walls that had been cleaned up just the week before.

Such are the trials of a new $10,500 program by the Mothers of East Los Angeles Santa Isabel Chapter, which targets neighborhoods bounded by 1st Street, Boyle Avenue, Lorena Street and the Santa Ana Freeway.

"I like these painters, but the other ones, no," said fruit market vendor Maria Socorro. "For three years, it's been calm, but only recently has this (tagging) been happening here. They should be punished."

Workers hired for the Youth Graffiti Abatement Program are funded by the Mothers, who are collecting rebates from a Department of Water and Power program involving the installation of water-saving toilets.

The Mothers are buying the paint and paying the painters' wages but also are looking for paint donations. They hope to continue painting out graffiti five days a week through the summer. After that, the Mothers will approach business and home owners to donate $5 a week toward the painters' salaries.

"This summer's been kind of bad with the graffiti," said Martin Gutierrez, who is overseeing the project. "This won't solve the problem. To do that, you have to talk to the gang members. They see this as a disrespect to them, but (the graffiti) is a sign of disrespect to the community."

Eventually, the summer program will employ 11 workers at $8 an hour, Gutierrez said. Additional volunteers will be recruited from area high schools in the fall.

The painters are using stock paint of pink, green, gray, blue and white and will paint out properties according to their color--pink on Mondays, green on Tuesdays etc.

"It's actually a deterrent," said Abel Gutierrez, Martin's brother and one of the painters. "Businesses get discouraged and give up because they paint and then the taggers come back again and again. Our job is to discourage the taggers because they will say, 'They're just going to paint over it.' We have to keep painting over and over again so the taggers eventually get discouraged."

Martin Gutierrez and his mother Juana Gutierrez, president of the group, plan to talk to the local gang leader in the hope of reducing repeated tagging. "We're going to ask them to have respect because it's the Mothers that are doing this," he said.

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