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Orange County Focus

Countywide : Board OKs $438,000 for Graffiti Program

August 24, 1994|MATT LAIT

Reinforcing a commitment to wipe out graffiti in the county, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to spend $438,000 for an aggressive program that already has eradicated more than 800,000 square feet of graffiti vandalism in its first year of operation.

While the program has been considered a success, county officials say they need to continue efforts to stop graffiti vandals from spreading their urban scrawlings on buildings, freeway signs, walls and other targets.

"I like to say that we can declare a victory on the war on graffiti, but the truth is we can't," said Charles Ferguson, coordinator of the county's Graffiti Abatement Program. "We've won some major battles, but the war goes on."

Ferguson, who was stepping down as director of the program to take another county position, received a commendation from the board Tuesday for helping lessen the county's graffiti problem. His duties will be assumed by the public works maintenance manager, Tom Connelie.

"We've made a huge difference," Ferguson told the board. "I just had the pleasure of leading the parade for a while."

The program funding approved by the board is a slight reduction over last year's $510,000, partly because the coordinator position is being eliminated and assumed by the public works manager.

In its first year, the program focused on graffiti removal, improving coordination of graffiti abatement efforts in cities and local agencies and strengthening efforts to prosecute vandals.

Among the program's accomplishments was removing graffiti on the average of 2.8 days after it was reported, according to a report by the county's Environmental Management Agency, which heads the program. County officials said they eventually hope to bring the removal time to one or two days.

Part of the cleanup was done by people fulfilling court community service obligations. More than 65 people completed nearly 5,000 community service hours painting over graffiti.

Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez, who has played a key role in the program, praised the accomplishments of the first year.

"We need to keep the heat on the graffiti vandals," Vasquez said. "I believe we need to continue this program if we are ultimately to win the war."

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