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9/14/2007
"Weiner Forms Citizen Brigades to Combat Graffiti" Community News 9/13/07

Weiner urges citizens to tackle graffiti

By Jesse Chadderdon
Staff Reporter

Posted Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 4:15 p.m.
New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner says he knows government can't do everything. But it can help citizens help themselves.

That's why Weiner (R-Chatham) wants to help create citizen brigades throughout his Western Brandywine Hundred district to tackle quality of life issues, starting with graffiti. He also eventually wants to cut down on litter and illegal signage.

"There is only so much the public sector can do given significant budgetary constraints," he said. "The cost of combating these problems is growing every day and putting a strain on the services that our state can provide for our citizens."

Weiner said graffiti in his district - particularly on I-95 and CSX overpasses - is becoming particularly bad, and neither the Delaware Department of Transportation nor the railroad, have the manpower to keep after it, he said.

"DelDOT can't supply the manpower, but they're willing to provide the paint materials," Weiner said. "And that's where the citizen brigades would come in."

Weiner said that combating seemingly minor nuisance issues was key to keeping a community safe and prosperous.

"As we have learned in other sections of the country, crime prevention for more serious criminal activity starts with first controlling these visual clutter crimes," he said. "Cleaning our streets of visual clutter sends a message to the would-be criminal that our community is on guard."

Weiner said that a number of legal and safety issues had to be worked out and said he had scheduled meetings with various law enforcement agencies and the Delaware Department of Justice. New Castle County Police Chief Col. Rick Gregory did not return telephone calls for comment.

"We will institute standard safety practices before formally launching the program to ensure that our volunteers are safe when they perform these civic duties such as painting walls covered with graffiti that are along our roadways," he said.

He said he did not envision citizen volunteers painting actual bridge spans- only the side walls and bridge supports. Ladders should not be needed because brushes and rollers can be affixed with long poles, he said.

Weiner likened the citizen brigades to a combination of the Adopt-A-Highway and Community Watch programs, which he said have been successful for years and involve minimal governmental oversight.

In the Adopt-A-Highway program, volunteers are provided with striped reflective vests, plastic bags and orange cones to designate work areas. He said similar arrangements could be made for citizen brigades.

Weiner said he hopes the brigades will incorporate volunteers from all walks of life - from civic association members to retired seniors who have the time to give to their communities and from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts looking to earn merit badges to Brandywine School District students looking for community service opportunities.

"I envision that each citizen brigade will have a captain who will operate as the area's contact person," he said. "The citizen brigades must be able to act immediately after graffiti appears in order to frustrate the graffiti vandals."

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To report graffiti in your area, contact the New Castle County Police?s Graffiti Tip Line (302) 571-7332. If you live in the 2nd District and are interested in joining a Citizens Brigade, contact Councilman Weiner?s legislative aide Louis Hinkle at (302) 395-8362.

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