City Hands Graffiti-Busters Fat Checks

Categories: Crime
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Who you gonna call?
Don't pull out your spray paint can in front of these dudes. The Department of Public Works held out a big carrot today for San Franciscans to report graffiti vandal: The agency handed $250 checks at a Mission District press conference to two men whose quick action led to the arrest and conviction of vandals. 

The checks came from the Graffiti Rewards Fund -- a program that showers beneficence upon anybody who files a police report that leads to the conviction of vandals. Assistant District Attorney Paul Henderson said that witness testimony is the "linchpin" in a graffiti case, and they need people willing to fill out police reports and testify in court as to what they saw.

The press conference had a bit of an Eagle Scout vibe --  the men's good deeds were read off and then they were handed a check instead of a patch. Ray Madarang, on the right, who lives on Hoff Street in the Mission said he was parking last fall when he saw vandals marring a building. Again. He called the police on his cell, and gave them a description of the vandal that led him to arrest the guy who was still hanging around a half hour later.

"I was doing it for my neighborhood," Madarang said. "I was at my saturation point."
   
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The other crimestopper, Terry Giannini, is a Portola businessman who saw vandals writing on the PG&E box in front of his shop.

The Department of Public Works will spend $3.6 million removing graffiti this year, said Director Ed Reiskin. He stood at the podium in front of a recent mural that artist Francisco Aquino painted at Capp and 23rd Streets as part of the city's Street SmARTs program, which finds local artists to paint murals to beautify the city and deter vandals. (Aquino is wearing the Giants cap in what looks like a line of soccer defenders protecting the mural from a free kick.)


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Reiskin says most vandals will respect a mural more than they would a blank wall. "This is sustainable, us coming through and painting it and painting it is an endless cycle, but this will last." Henderson says vandals who mark up a mural are charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor, because the damage is worth much more than $400. Aquino estimated they'd put in 150 man hours on the piece.

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We found it slightly ironic that the mural that is supposed to deter vandalism depicts three Mission characters whose real-life counterparts are ticketed by police for another infraction: selling without a license. The fruit guy! The bacon-wrapped hot dog vendor! The Tamale Lady! We wondered if the bacon-wrapped hot dog vendors' apron that reads "Unidos" is a nod to the street vendors we recently wrote about who call themselves Vendedores Unidos -- or United Vendors. The group is attempting to formalize and lobby against the city regulations that keep them operating illegally. Our attempts to find out have thus far not borne any fruit.   

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Que viva our Lady of Tamale!

Update 5:30 p.m.: Artist Francisco Aquino said there's no connection between the vendor's apron and the Vendedores Unidos. It's just a coincidence. Meanwhile, Caleb Zigas of La Cocina, the non-profit in the Mission that is helping to organize the vendors, says that one of the main hot-dog sellers in the group is convinced it's her. 

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