Cops and youth teamed up to clean up graffiti.
A group of young people from Villa Maria Academy joined forces with a cadre of police officers from the 45th Precinct and anti-graffiti activists John Marano and John Provetto to clean up a badly tagged wall under the Bruckner Expressway interchange in Throggs Neck.
In less than 45 minutes on Tuesday, April 21, the dozen youngsters, working on a school service project, painted over a massive support wall that links the Hutchinson River Parkway to the approach to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge.
The effort was part of a broader campaign by Provetto and Marano, and the 45th Precinct, to clean up graffiti trouble spots on structures – and things like mailboxes and fire call boxes – throughout communities spanning from Zerega Avenue to City Island, and everywhere in between.
The efforts, coordinated at the precinct by its graffiti coordinator police officer Frank Malafronte, often involve youth volunteers from schools and the Police Youth Explorers, as well as Auxiliary and volunteers.
“We need to send a message to our youth who are being steered the wrong way that graffiti is not the thing to do,” said Marano, who added “They need to be taught at a young age that you have to take pride in your community and keep it clean.”
The graffiti is clearly visible from the heavily traveled roadway, explained Marano, also a vice-chairman at Community Board 10. Provetto, his partner in cleanup, said that he believes graffiti is a gateway to larger crimes.
“It is a win for the community and a win for the kids,” said Provetto of the youth helping clean the vandalism.
“By cleaning up, it gives them a sense of what not to do,” he said, adding that it fosters a sense of ownership and it may help the children encourage their friends and classmates not to graffiti.
Fighting graffiti in the Bronx is very difficult, because it is difficult to catch the culprits in the act, a must for prosecution in the borough.
“If you cannot get them on the law enforcement end, you get them on the cleanup end, where you frustrate the graffiti artist,” said Provetto, adding that he would appreciate as much support as possible on graffiti prosecutions by District Attorney Robert Johnson’s office.
Cleanups like the one on April 21 can create better harmony between police and young people, said Malafronte.
“It is working with the police department in a favorable light,” he said about young people cleaning graffiti, adding it helps the police be seen as people who do more than lock people up.
“I am hoping that this will encourage people to get involved and cleanup their neighborhood,” the officer said, adding that there was not a shortage of volunteers to clean up graffiti in the 45th Precinct.
“You know when you are crossing into the 45th Precinct,” said Malafronte. “You see the graffiti stop.”