The positive side of crime

Jose Herrera, 18, paints over graffiti as part of the Bronx Community Solutions program to help turn punishment into production. Photo by Amanda Marinaccio

The courts are finding a new way to give back to the community, turning punishment into production.

On Tuesday, September 30, a group of young adults, charged with non-violent offenses, were assigned to clean up graffiti at several locations along E. Tremont Avenue, as part of the Bronx Community Solutions program.

This is an organization geared towards finding alternative solutions to non-violent offenses, rather than jail sentencing. The goal is to turn punishments into beneficial learning experiences and provide helpful services to the Bronx community.

“They go to all the precincts in the borough and set up a schedule every month,” said officer Pasquale Pappalardi of the 45th Precinct, “or if something comes up and I can’t get assistance from another office I will request they come in to help.”

The locations painted were areas chosen by Pappalardi, whose specializes in crime prevention. There are buildings and areas picked out by the police themselves or that may have had complaints submitted against them through community members.

The photos taken to report the graffiti are the most important key to resolving the graffiti problem according to Pappalardi, who is able to keep track of ‘tags’ through the photographs to further investigate and prevent these crimes.

“The purpose of graffiti is territorial, who owns the turf first. The whole idea is to represent your crew, in other words what team you are on,” explains Pappalardi.

The group had mixed feelings regarding the service they were providing for the community; some feeling that graffiti cleanup should extend throughout the entire Bronx.

“I would rather do this than be locked up in jail,” said Eddie Hogan, 18, who was serving one day of community service for his offense. “I don’t know why we are doing this area though, this is a nice area, and there are a lot of other places that need to be taken care of.”

Other participants felt that this was a positive alternative and appreciated the outreach programs gears to assist them further in attaining a job or continuing to help their communities.

“If you don’t ask and apply yourself, they are not going to help you,” explains Litza Velazquez, who felt her community service had a positive impact. “A lot of people just complain, they don’t realize people just don’t hand things to you. This group will help you with whatever you need, you just have to apply yourself.”

According to a representative from Councilman James Vacca’s office, there are many options out there to help with community cleanup, for anyone wishing to volunteer, including the ‘adopt a mailbox’ program from the U.S. Post Office. The ultimate goal of all these programs is to have the community unite to ensure a cleaner environment for all.

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