Armed with brooms and paint rollers, a battalion of volunteers launched a full-scale assault on graffiti in the San Fernando Valley on Saturday.
In Northridge, children wearing "Operation Sparkle" T-shirts swept the streets, painted out graffiti and picked up garbage as part of the Los Angeles Police Department's fifth annual campaign to clean up the city.
The incidence of graffiti has decreased by 50% in the Valley during the past several years, thanks to Operation Sparkle and other LAPD anti-graffiti programs, according to Senior Lead Officer Sally Barnes.
"They make a tremendous difference," said Deputy Chief Martin Pomeroy, commanding officer of the Valley Bureau. "There are many city streets that you drive through that used to be covered in graffiti that are now graffiti-free."
The Police Department estimated that more than 6,000 residents turned out to volunteer to clean up at locations throughout the Valley. Last year, Pomeroy said, workers collected 220 tons of trash and painted over tens of thousands of square feet of graffiti. This year, for the first time, volunteers cleaned the homes of the elderly or infirm.
This is also the first year that the program, which began in the Valley, has gone citywide. The LAPD's South Bureau held its cleanup last Saturday, and the West and Central bureaus will have theirs Saturday and Oct. 22, respectively. All Operation Sparkle volunteers are invited to a crime prevention and safety festival Oct. 29, when the Police Department will celebrate the conclusion of the program.
City Council members Richard Alarcon, Laura Chick, Joel Wachs and Zev Yaroslavsky donned Operation Sparkle T-shirts and pitched in for the cleanup. At a news conference, they thanked the volunteers for coming out.
"Operation Sparkle has become more than an effort to clean the community," Yaroslavsky said. "It's also been an exciting vehicle to involve people in their communities."
"This is an educational process for our kids," said Alarcon. "It's teaching them to be better community participants."
Kids who swept and picked up trash near the news conference site, near the corner of Malden Street and Canby Avenue in Northridge, said they were glad to lend a hand in beautifying their neighborhood.
"I'm having a real nice time helping and stuff," said Laurel Hamer, 12. "Since everybody got together to help, it was more fun."