Major changes in Chula Vista's anti-graffiti program have many residents and business owners picking up the slack.
In January, the city made changes to its popular graffiti abatement program. City crews used to remove graffiti all day long on public and private property, but budget cuts have scaled that back.
Now, crews work sporadically and only remove graffiti on city property. A city spokeswoman told 10News there is already a three-week backlog on reports of vandalism.
Property owners like Chuck Cauthon are now being forced to do the job themselves. Cauthon, a property manager for several buildings on Broadway, said he is trying to renovate several of the properties, and he told 10News graffiti vandals have made his job very difficult.
"We're going to do all this renovation and stuff and these guys come along and graffiti everything that we just did," Cauthon said.
Cauthon pointed out the side of a building which looked brand new but had several graffiti tags covering the entire wall. Cauthon said the building's owner is fighting an uphill battle.
"He's not even got a tenant in there yet and he's had to repaint it five times in the last month," he said.
Cauthon has spent hundreds of dollars on paint to cover up the tags around his properties. He's frustrated because he's painted some walls several times.
"You know, you paint this wall and I guarantee you in three days it'll be painted back," said Cauthon.
Authorities said taggers are also terrorizing residential areas. In the Rancho Del Rey area of Chula Vista, authorities said taggers are hitting homes, schools and buses. The South Bay Family YMCA's bus was practically spray painted green.
"We had to spend thousands of dollars to have the buses repainted and repaired," said South Bay YMCA Executive Director Lisa Johnson.
Chula Vista resident Kelly Luna noticed an increased of tagging in her neighborhood and went looking for help. She found it at the YMCA and, oddly enough, the city of Chula Vista. Apparently the city has an old program called "Buff-a-Block," which encourages residents to remove graffiti.
Luna has organized an army to tackle graffiti in the neighborhoods. Girl Scout Troop 5063 will go into schools to discuss the problem with administrators and students, and they will also help remove graffiti alongside the Earth Service Corps, a teenage group with clubs at local high schools and the YMCA. The city has donated supplies for the cause.
Together, they've formed "Graffiti Busters," and Johnson said it's important the group is successful especially when budget cuts won't allow the city to do it for them.
"It's a reflection of our community," she said.
To learn more about the Graffiti Busters program, visit www.southbay.ymca.org/teen-programs/earth-service-corps.html
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