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Graffiti task force cleans up Athens

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By Maren Machles and Alexandra Newman

On Saturday morning a group of Ohio University students and Athens community members gathered outside of the Police Station to tackle the problem of graffiti in Athens.

The task force, named T.A.G. (Targeting Area Graffiti), aimed at making Athens a cleaner place, had a very successful cleanup this past weekend.

City council members, employees of the Mayor’s office, the Athens Police Department and Ohio University students, including Fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, were all involved last Saturday.

The group walked up to the Athens Middle School and cleaned the wall of the bus garage. They also visited five public restrooms and scrubbed graffiti tags from the tile walls. They walked up Mill and Court Street cleaning signs and metal boxes along the sidewalk as well.

“Our mission was to get out there and simply make Athens a cleaner place and I think we did this weekend,” said Ron Lucas, the deputy service safety director of Athens.

Lucas, who is in charge of the operation, works closely with the APD to organize these events.

“This is the first time we have gotten university students involved in such a large capacity,” Lucas said.

In the past, Athens Middle School and High School students have held their own cleanups with the help of T.A.G.

However, making Athens a pretty place does not necessarily mean that it will be a more beautiful place, according to a local Athens graffiti artist who wishes to remain anonymous.

“I think to eliminate [tag walls] would almost be a bad idea because a lot of people can put up their tags and do what they want and it is so much more innocent; if you take those away they will be looking to put it up anywhere, maybe in other parts of the town.”

The task force is actually working to find other tag walls for taggers to display their work, according to Lieutenants David Williams of the APD who is working as community program officer for T.A.G.

“As far as other parts of the town, I don’t feel strongly either way about it. When I started tagging I expected for my stuff to be taken down.”

A city law states if you are caught creating street art you can be fined and even get a misdemeanor charge. The task force members do admit it would be hard to catch people doing this.

“For the people that do it for the quantity and just want to be all over the place, I think that when the city washes it off it kind of lights the fire under their a** and makes them want to work harder,” the Athens graffiti artist said.

The APD has been the main force in getting the project completed. For the future, they are looking into getting better chemicals and devices to scrape and rub the graffiti off with.

“We are starting to do some fundraising and are gladly accepting donations so we can better clean up the streets,” Lucas said.

T.A.G. will be taking to the streets every couple of months to clean up graffiti. Their next big haul is planned for Jan. 25. The exact route of this cleanup is still to be determined.  One of the places in need of cleaning up is The Ridges area behind the Kennedy Art Museum.

“During the next two months we will survey the graffiti around Athens and see what areas we need to target the hardest next time so we can make Athens a better place,” Lucas said.

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