When a graffiti tagger strikes—such as the two who tagged the Gilroy Dispatch office around 5 pm on Tuesday with a crude pink stamp—grime fighters with the Gilroy Wipe Out Watch Anti-Graffiti Program spring into action to erase what is left behind on public or private property.
“I’ve been fighting grime for about five years now,” said Cindy Parks, a property manager with Bay Sierra Properties, who was on the scene in less than half-an-hour after she was called. “We want to wipe it out quickly before someone else tags the building. It gets competitive with them.”
The Wipe Out Watch is a group of volunteers organized and supplied by the Gilroy Police Department who are committed to wiping out graffiti wherever it’s found.
“We want to wipe it out as soon as we find it,” said Gilroy Police Officer Rachel Muñoz, the city’s Graffiti Abatement Officer. “If it’s left on property too long, it can spark a tagging war. One tagger will notice a rival’s tag, then they’ll cross it out and add their own. It becomes a competitive crime.”
Parks, who routinely takes care of the downtown came to the Dispatch office armed with a spray bottle full of paint thinner and a can of Goof Off graffiti remover. Within a minute or two, the tag was gone.
“If it would have been from a gang I think it would have been much worse,” Parks said of the tag. “This one looks like a signature. A lot of them do it for the notoriety and some of them have minions who tag for them.”
Wipe Out Watch was started in the early ‘90s by volunteers such as Al Galardi, who would patrol the streets in the early morning, seeking out graffiti and wiping it clean before the city’s other residents had started their days.
“We call it community policing,” Muñoz said. “We have a core group of volunteers and they’re like a neighborhood watch. We work very closely with downtown businesses, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and other residents.
When a tag is too large for Parks or another WipeOut Meeting volunteer to remove, they report it to Munoz to have the tag removed.
“A lot of times if you see a big square on a wall where the color doesn’t match with the rest of the building—that’s probably where graffiti was painted over,” Parks said. “A lot of the alleys get tagged a lot and I feel really bad for business owners who have their buildings regularly tagged. It really is a nuisance.”
The Wipe Out Watch is always looking for volunteers and will meet next on Feb., 7 at noon at the Gilroy Police Department Community Room. To report graffiti, call 408-846-0359.