Teenagers assigned to community service through the courts are getting ready to hit the streets again with paint and brushes.
They will be painting off graffiti on buildings throughout Schenectady in a program organized by City Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo.
It ran for just one month last year, as a test, and was so successful that it will run from May to October this year.
But the teens’ very first job will be to redo what they’ve already painted.
They will be repainting buildings that were tagged again after the teens painted over the graffiti last year.
At Blinds, Shades & More on Van Vranken Avenue, it took vandals only a week to put more graffiti on the freshly painted building, said owner Ginger Connolly.
“I think it’s wonderful that the city is actually making an effort,” she said of the graffiti-covering program. “However, I am extremely frustrated the Schenectady police didn’t do their part to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.”
She spent $300 on a security light, but that, too, did not deter the vandals.
She wants a security camera installed on the street to catch whoever keeps putting graffiti on the businesses.
“We sort of vaguely know who’s doing it, but if you can’t catch them, you can’t prove it,” she said. “That’s why a security camera is so important.”
In the meantime, she’s left the graffiti up. She said if vandals will retag her building every time it’s painted, trying to clean up the graffiti is pointless.
But she wants it gone for good.
“It certainly hurts the value of the building,” she said. “I don’t think people really enjoy coming to a building like that. It makes them a little uncomfortable.”
The teens will also be repainting the back of a city-owned building on Watt Street. The side of the building that overlooks Interstate 890 was quickly retagged after the crew painted the building last year.
Perazzo was annoyed when the buildings were tagged after the crews repainted.
“Graffiti just bugs the crap out of me,” she said. “We have to do something.”
She’s hopeful that this year the crews will be able to clean up Schenectady for more than just a few days.
“I think we can have a greater impact this year, because it won’t be for just a month,” she said.
Before the crew can paint a privately owned building, the city must send each owner a citation explaining that it’s against city code to leave graffiti up.
The letter asks owners to sign a release allowing the teenagers to paint over the graffiti.
In the past, the city hasn’t cited owners for graffiti.
“The city doesn’t do that because it’s a crime where you’re a victim,” Perazzo said. “But we’ll cover it up for you.”
Home Depot is providing the paint and will be teaching the teens how to paint. Perazzo is still looking for volunteers to pick up the paint and deliver it to the crew each Saturday, and she’s hoping others will sponsor pizza. Nico’s provided free pizza lunches last year, but Perazzo needs more volunteers to keep that going this year.
She’s also looking for a secure location that could store the paint. The location must be staffed on Saturday mornings so that volunteers could pick up the supplies.
If Perazzo can’t find help, she said she would continue to run the program herself, but not every weekend. She plans to commit to every other weekend.
“My goal was to get community groups to adopt a week,” she said. “But I’m still working on that.”
To volunteer, call 334-1346.