Help wanted for Citizen's Brigade
Anyone interested in joining one of the brigades can contact Weiner through his website, www.bobweiner.com, or by calling his aide, Lou Hinkle, at (302) 395-8362
Graffiti is now the target of brigades of citizens organized by New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner to paint over graffiti and pick up litter in their neighborhoods
By Adam Zewe
Staff Reporter, Community News
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2007
Who to callTo report graffiti on private property call the New Castle County Department of Code Enforcement at (302) 395-5555.
To report vulgar graffiti, call the Delaware Department of Transportation at (302) 894-6300.
To report illegal signs or cars parked in the right-of-way, call the Delaware Department of Transportation at (302) 326-4679.
To contact the New Castle County Police Department about graffiti or litter, call the police non-emergency number, (302) 573-2800.
Residents of Greenville and the Brandywine Hundred are forming brigades to clean up graffiti and litter in their neighborhoods.
New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham) led a meeting on Nov. 7 at the Brandywine Town Center Community Center to discuss the brigades with the 30 people who attended.
Weiner began planning the brigades four months ago, he said, because graffiti and litter are more than just minor nuisances.
"Graffiti sends a message to would be criminals and vandals that no one is on guard, no one is watching, and you can come into our community and commit more serious crimes," Weiner said.
He hopes to create four citizens brigades, one in Greenville and three in the Brandywine Hundred, each with two dozen members who will paint over graffiti and pick up litter.
Each brigade will be led by a captain to organize cleanups and inform Delaware State and New Castle County Police about graffiti and litter problems.
The brigades will only work on state-owned property, like Interstate 95 overpasses, Weiner said, because graffiti and litter on private property are the responsibility of the property owner.
The goal, Weiner said, is for the brigades to paint over graffiti 24 hours after it is identified to discourage graffiti vandals from repainting it.
Weiner said state employees usually paint over graffiti about once a month, but immediate graffiti cleanup is the only way to stop graffiti vandals.
"It would be great if we had rich governments that would deploy state and county employees on a regular basis to clean this up, but there aren't enough tax dollars in our tax coffers to do that," he said.
The brigades will not use any state or county money, he said, because they will be staffed by volunteers and their supplies - white paint, paintbrushes and rollers - will be donated by the Delaware Department of Transportation.
The department will also supply red and white striped safety vests so brigade members are visible to passing traffic. Safety is important, Weiner said, and brigade members will not use ladders or climb on bridges or overpasses while painting over graffiti.
Adult and student volunteers will work on each brigade, he said, but brigade members must be 18 years old to clean up graffiti. Younger volunteers can help pick up litter, he said.
Volunteer brigades are necessary, Weiner said, because New Castle County and Delaware State Police have limited resources to catch graffiti vandals.
New Castle County Police Lieutenant Craig Weldon said there aren't enough police officers in the New Castle County to patrol for graffiti.
"Five hundred thousand people, 400 police officers - do the math, we need your help," he said.
Weiner said at the meeting that all members of New Castle County Council want to hire more police officers to stop crimes like graffiti and the council will discuss increasing taxes to hire more officers in the Spring.
If police catch a graffiti vandal, the charge is usually criminal mischief and the punishment is a fine starting at $25, said Delaware State Police Captain Patrick Ogden.
Ogden said the punishments vary depending on which judge hears the case, but he would like to see graffiti vandals punished with community service so they paint over their own graffiti.
Stopping graffiti vandals is the main goal of the brigades, Weiner said, but he wants brigade members to report other violations like cars parked in handicapped parking spots, illegal signs in the right-of-way or graffiti on private property.
The brigades should start within a month, Weiner said, and he has found captains for two of the four brigades.
Isaac Walker, who will command the brigade in Greenville, said he decided to join after he was approached by a New Castle County police officer while Walker was painting over graffiti on one of the Route 52 overpasses in Greenville.
"I thought I was going to be arrested," he said.
Instead, the officer invited Walker to join one of the brigades and Walker volunteered to be a captain.
"I hope we can get it organized in such a manner so we paint over graffiti enough times to discourage people from doing it," he said.
About 10 people expressed interest in joining the brigades after the meeting, including Karen Zeitler, a Brandywine Hundred resident who said she gets angry when she sees graffiti.
"I'm a nature lover and I want everything to look natural. I don't want to see this human garbage," he said.
Sue Douglas, a Claymont resident, said she is fed up with graffiti and litter in her neighborhood and is glad that people are taking initiative to clean up the streets.
"We have to make people aware that they have to take care of where they live because no one else is going to do it," she said.
Anyone interested in joining one of the brigades can contact Weiner through his website, www.bobweiner.com, or by calling his aide, Lou Hinkle, at (302) 395-8362.
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