Graffiti battle on rise

The American Eagle Cadet Unit, in conjunction with the 52nd Precinct Auxiliary Unit and Community Board 7, recently began Bedford Against Graffiti, a graffiti removal and awareness program in Bedford Park – (back row, l-r) Police Officer Marie Shea; Erick Santos; Ralph Garcia; Miguel Alvaran; Marc Santiago; Unit Captain Ken Desiena; Jonathan Cruz; Joshua Marimon, 52nd Precinct Auxiliary Deputy Inspector David Wong, (front row, l-r) Auxiliary Police Officer Miguel Cruz; Justin Vazquez; Christopher Ramirez; John Carlos Cabral and Jose Baez.

In an effort to clean up their neighborhood and spread awareness, the American Eagle Force Cadet Unit recently began Bedford Against Graffiti, the first in a series of community-wide anti-graffiti initiatives.

Teaming up with Community Board 7, B.A.G. is part of the board’s Graffiti Reduction Education Action Team, a program designed to educate youth about the negative effects of graffiti, while also involving them in graffiti removal activities.

“The defacing of buildings in our community greatly contributes to its overall deterioration,” CB 7 district manager Fernando Tirado said. “We are proud to help our youth take a meaningful step toward improving their neighborhoods.”

In conjunction with the 52nd Precinct’s auxiliary unit, the group of 35 cadets splits into groups to patrol the Bedford Park community every Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon identifying defaced buildings.

The auxiliary officers will then provide the teens training on their high-pressure, hot water washer and supervise the clean up efforts.

The unit’s commanding officer, Kenneth Desiena, said more than the cadet’s physical service, it is their verbal lessons against graffiti that are making the biggest impact.

“Now they’re out there preaching the message to their own friends,” Desiena said. “They’ve become our best assets.”

While the cadets continue to seek donations to assist with their numerous operating costs, Desiena said he knows the program will rebuild to what it once was.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the group held headquarters at St. Phillip Neri church, at the Grand Concourse and 201st Street. They took it upon themselves to begin removing graffiti from the church property – an action that mistakenly led local law enforcement to the scene.

As they continued to generate relationships throughout the community, all while improving its image, a devastating fire in 1997 destroyed the church along with their supplies.

Desiena said he’s back for good and ready to regroup.

Now based out of the Williamsbridge Oval Recreation Center, at Bainbridge and Van Cortland avenues, B.A.G. is seeking community support in the form of painting supplies and storage space, also inviting all CB7 civic groups to join their efforts. For more info call  (718) 933-5650.

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