Students Remove Graffiti From Downtown Buildings In Athens

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More than 30 Ohio University students did their part Saturday to make Athens look better by volunteering to remove graffiti downtown.

The Targeting Area Graffiti (TAG) task force organized the event in which about 40 people participated, nearly all of them Ohio University students.

"There is graffiti all over Athens. It just doesn't look good," said OU student Tracey Engle. She volunteered for Saturday's cleanup effort, saying, "It just helps the community look nicer."

Engle belongs to Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, and several members participated Saturday. Other OU students signed up through the Campus Involvement Center.

Student Chelsea Webb said she heard about the cleanup through her roommate.

"I just decided I wanted to help her and volunteer, and make Athens more beautiful," Webb said.

The students and other volunteers painted over graffiti on several buildings in the downtown area. Also, street signs were cleaned of graffiti.

Once an area is cleaned, that doesn't necessarily mean it will stay free of graffiti.

"Our goal is to start with a clean slate and then catch some of the people who are doing this," said task force member Dave Williams, an Athens police reserve officer and retired police captain.

Williams said $500 rewards are available for information leading to the arrest of  anyone responsible for graffiti. Those with information can call Athens police at 593-6606 or, if they want to give information anonymously, they can call Crime Solvers Anonymous at 594–3331.

Although there have been graffiti cleanups in past years, the Targeting Area Graffiti task force was formed in October to take a more focused approach on removing graffiti.

"It keeps our eyes on it, and keeps us planning," said Assistant Service-Safety Director Ron Lucas. Saturday was the third TAG cleanup day, and the task force will be at it again during Athens Beautification Day in April. During that event, power washers will be used to remove graffiti from unpainted brick surfaces.

City Councilwoman Michele Papai, one of the team leaders at Saturday's cleanup, indicated that volunteer activities have an added benefit besides the work accomplished.

"When you get people involved in the community, they take more ownership," she said.