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West Valley Focus

CANOGA PARK : Cleanup Group Says Graffiti Mounting

September 01, 1993|KURT PITZER

Two months after they were forced to reduce their graffiti cleanup program by half, officials at El Centro de Amistad, a major community service organization in Canoga Park, said the writing on the community's walls is becoming more and more apparent.

"What we are finding is the graffiti is mounting," said Norma Solis, who runs the cleanup program at El Centro. "There's more graffiti and there are fewer of us. We've had to limit our (efforts) to the immediate area."

In July, El Centro laid off two of four employees on its anti-graffiti team and grounded one of two vans used for the cleanup, after Los Angeles County supervisors failed to renew a $40,000 contract for the work. Officials had hoped that the funds would be restored during final deliberations on the county budget, but they were not.

The organization was able to keep the program going because it continues to receive $60,000 a year from the City of Los Angeles.

Typically, the center relies on help from people who are sentenced by the courts to perform community service work cleaning up graffiti. But the numbers of those workers are down too, because the center's only operating van must carry other equipment, and only has room for six workers.

The cuts also have dealt a blow to police in the West Valley, who often coordinate graffiti cleanup with El Centro.

"Unquestionably, it's going to mean that we cannot rely on them as much when we are overwhelmed in an area," said West Valley Senior Lead Officer Russ Long. "I'm afraid we will see a decided increase in the amount of graffiti in the West Valley."

Some of the county cuts, which also forced El Centro to lay off its part-time coordinator of homeless programs and two parent counselors, may be restored midyear if state funds become available, said Joel Bellman, spokesman for Supervisor Ed Edelman, who represents the area.

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