ARLINGTON — Almost two years ago, Vikki McMurray was on a one-woman crusade to wipe out graffiti in Arlington — one street, one fence, one building at a time.
Now she’s backed by a brigade of volunteers armed with paint cans, trays and rollers. They want the graffiti and the blight it creates gone from their community.
Last year, the Arlington Brigade’s Wipe Out Graffiti campaign launched and included more than 50 volunteers who removed tagging in and around Arlington. They started in Smokey Point where the group eradicated graffiti in and near York Park. They have removed graffiti in Jensen, Terrace and Twin Rivers parks, Centennial Trail and businesses in downtown Arlington and Island Crossing.
“This is my city, and it has been my honor to clean it,” McMurray said after being presented with the mayor’s volunteer of the month award for September.
Within hours of accepting the award, the group had its next assignment: Removing graffiti in the Eagle Heights neighborhood.
“Arlington is a more attractive, safer city because of Vikki,” Mayor Barb Tolbert said.
McMurray said she’s doing her part to make sure the community she has lived in since 1989 remains gorgeous. “I’ve seen a lot of changes, and I got tired of looking at graffiti,” she said. “I know what it means, I know what it brings and I know what happens when you ignore it.”
So do police. “Studies show the faster you cover graffiti over, the less likely it is to return,” said Arlington Police Chief Jonathan Ventura, who has grabbed a roller and joined the wipeouts.
Under city laws, graffiti must be removed from property within 48 hours. City officials try to notify businesses and private individuals who don’t always have the means to remove graffiti, but mostly count on voluntary compliance. If that doesn’t happen, they reach out to the brigade.
While the group gets some support from police, such as wipes for removing tagging from traffic signs, its efforts depend on donations. There is no shortage of graffiti and McMurray’s running out of paint – especially brown.
“Everybody wants brown paint for their fences,” she said. To donate, visit the city’s website.
Ventura called McMurray a treasure within the police volunteer program.
“We plug volunteers into things they’re interested in,” he said. “Some answer phones. Some work with the K-9s. Vikki had a heart for cleaning up graffiti.”
Ventura said the graffiti is mostly the work of young taggers who want to leave their mark. In rare instances, hate graffiti linked to neo-Nazi or white power groups surfaces. He added that while police have seen a slight increase in gang graffiti, it hasn’t been accompanied by gang-related crime.