In early April there was a graffiti spree in Schenectady’s Stockade, an area you wouldn’t expect to find those ugly spray-painted scrawls, obscenities and gang tags that are graffiti-ists’ claim to fame, territory, or whatever it is they’re after. The fact that one of the city’s best neighborhoods has this problem shows just how serious and pernicious it has become in Schenectady.
Like derelict houses and buildings, which often feature it, graffiti is a blight on neighborhoods, detracting from their quality of life, encouraging more graffiti, vandalism and other crimes, including drug- and violence-related ones. Yet, despite the fact that neighborhood improvement has supposedly been a priority of the City Council the last few years, no serious attention has been paid to graffiti. Nor have mayoral candidates Gary McCarthy (the council president) and Roger Hull (who as Union College president helped launched the volunteer-based beautification project Schenectady 2000, and had Union students painting over graffiti) been talking about it.
Perhaps a Schenectady 2000-type effort devoted to graffiti is the answer. This might be undertaken by some new group, or by the various neighborhoods working together. There could be two citywide graffiti cleanups each year, in spring and fall, with volunteers supplying the labor and the city the paint. The paint could be a few generic shades — beige, green, brick-red — and come from donated paint, collected, mixed and stored at the new city garage.
The rest of the year, spot graffiti cleanup could be performed by Boy Scout groups, students looking to do community service, prisoners at the county jail and, for true justice, those caught at graffiti (and police should make more of an effort to do that).
The city should also consider setting up a graffiti hotline or a place on its Website for reporting graffiti and, ideally, photos of it. Like the photo accompanying this editorial, and similar ones posted on our Web site. It’s hard to look at this stuff and not want to get out there with a can of paint and brush.