Covering up graffiti for community service

ALBERT LEA, MN — It is not the kind of writing on the wall you want to see. Graffiti is popping up around Albert Lea and property owners want it taken care of.

There is a plan in place to clean up the mess, but you may be surprised at the group taking on the cleanup duty.

Some buildings in town have been defaced with paint and police officers do not like the looks of that.

“If you have an area that’s been dilapidated or has a lot of graffiti or other things going on, that area tends to invite crime, so by cleaning it up and getting the neighbors and the kids involved, then hopefully you can deter crime,” said Lt. Jeff Strom of the Albert Lea Police Department.

Those who are in charge of cleanup duties have a duty of their own to fulfill.

“The kids that are being used to clean up the graffiti are all kids that have some kind of community service hours that they have to serve. Could be anywhere from they’ve been truant or they’ve committed minor crimes,” Strom said.

Some area businesses have been directly impacted by the graffiti, but some area apartment complexes would like to see it go as well.

“We do a lot to keep up the outside of our buildings, but that’s not what we sit and stare at when we’re at home from the inside,” said Robert Hoffman, property manager for the College Street Apartments.

It would be helpful for those showing the apartments to potential renters.

“Every single time, sometimes on the phone before they’ve even seen it, they ask me to tell them about the neighborhood, but you’ll never walk in after a showing or during a showing without somebody asking what goes on around eventually where I’m going to live,” Hoffman said.

The area near the apartments is likely to be one of the top priorities to get cleaned up first. Police think the hard labor is a good way to give these teens some meaningful service.

“Sometimes the kids will do community service hours at businesses where they’ll stand around. This is something more that they’re giving back to the community. Instead of doing community service hours where they might have to push a rag around a little bit at a business, they’re actually having to get involved, take responsibility,” Strom said.

To many, that is the meaning of community service.

“A, it’s about time, because we could use some cleanup, but b, they just teach it forward, so that’s a great action on the police’s behalf,” Hoffman said.

Strom said that they are working to get it all taken care of before school starts so they are not restricted to doing the work on weekends. He said if all goes well with this project, they would like to continue doing similar things in the future.

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