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Law Enforcement Converge for Anti-graffiti Training

Posted: August 16, 2011
Graffiti is more than an unsightly petty crime. If you look at it closely, graffiti provides a window into a community—how safe it is, how much attention police are giving it, and what roles gangs play.

More than 60 Buffalo-area police officers and community leaders will have the chance to learn about the significance of different types of graffiti and its neighborhood impact during a daylong, on-campus program Wednesday, August 17. Organized by the West Side Youth Violence Prevention Task Force, an initiative championed by Buffalo State faculty and staff, the program will emphasize the importance of reporting graffiti and strategies for graffiti abatement.

 “We want interaction between the police and the community to work on the problem together and solve it,” said Sam Lunetta, retired University Police lieutenant and director of the Regional Anti-graffiti Task Force.

The program began as an in-service training for police officers. Expanded, it now reaches out to school resource officers and community leaders to help them better understand the differences between the tagger culture and the gang culture and how graffiti relates to violence.

“Like the broken windows theory, graffiti breeds more graffiti,” noted Lunetta, who has been studying the issue for the past decade. “The goal should be to get it off as quickly as possible and to educate the public regarding the problem and how it relates to other issues in the community.”

Too often, police officers see graffiti as a nonviolent crime and consider it a low priority, Lunetta said. This kind of awareness program will shed light on the connection between eradicating graffiti and cutting down on crime. At Wednesday’s training, Paul Annetts, an officer with the state Department of Corrections, will present a segment on the little-known correlation between tattoos and graffiti.

Along with Lunetta and Annetts, other trainers include Earl Perrin, Buffalo Police Department gang expert; Oswaldo Mestre, director of citizens for the city of Buffalo; and Burt Mirti, the city’s graffiti expert.

Compared to other cities, Buffalo is doing a great job of mitigating the graffiti problem, Lunetta said, adding, “Is it still a problem? Absolutely. It’s like DWI—you may never get rid of it entirely, but you can work to minimize it as much as possible.”

The West Side Youth Violence Prevention Task Force’s initiatives are funded by Buffalo State’s Center for Health and Social Research (CHSR). Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded a Project Safe Neighborhoods grant to CHSR which is being used to support the task force’s programming.
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