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Echo Park Agency Defends Graffiti Response Times

Despite calls for faster graffiti cleanup in Highland Park, the head of Central City Action Committee said the organization is doing a good job.

Despite numerous complaints expressed by residents about the speed of graffiti cleanup in Highland Park, the head of the organization contracted by the city to scrub out tagging in the neighborhood believe they are doing a good job.

"We don't think the neighborhood is underserved," said David Bermudez, head of Echo Park-based Central City Action Committee, to the on Thursday evening. "We think some of you might just be waking up to [tagging in the neighborhood]."

Bermudez said that the amount of graffiti tagging in Highland Park had been greatly reduced over the last decade, thanks in large part to Central City Action Committee's efforts.

"Maybe some of you haven't been in the community for that long, but if you have hopefully you've noticed an increase in the quality of life in the neighborhood as a result of our work," Bermudez said.

According to Bermudez, Central City employs seven crews that work in Highland Park (including North Figueroa and Monte Vista Streets), Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights and, of course, Echo Park and Historic Filipinotown.

Those crews work from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. patrolling graffiti "hot-spots," Bermudez said, as well as responding to calls received through the city's 311 service.

Despite Bermudez's claims to the contrary, several longtime residents of Highland Park and members of the Neighborhood Council said they felt Central City's cleanup efforts were lacking in the area.

When HHPNC member Rick Marquez pressed Bermudez provide a precise response time to calls about tagging, he said it was "about 72 hours."

"But, I can't promise 72-hours, because we have volume."

HHPNC President Chris Smith said--given the recent spike in gang violence in Highland Park, including two shootings earlier on Thursday--Central City needed to greatly improve its response time.

"If you end at 2:30 p.m., there's still six hours of daylight when graffiti can go up and spark violence before the sun goes down," Smith said.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, gang violence is often sparked by tagging crews spraying graffiti in rival territory.

"There are some areas that require a 24-hour response time," Smith said. "And if that's beyond your capacity, then that's something we need to talk about with the city."

For comparison's sake, Graffiti Busters, which is contracted by Council District 14 for graffiti cleanup in parts of Highland park and Eagle Rock boasts a 24-hour response time, according to CD 14 Field Representative Nate Hayward.

"Honestly, we've never received a complaint about them," said Hayward, who was also on hand for Thursday's meeting.

Bermudez said that Highland Park residents might see a better response time if they were more active in making complaints about tagging.

"We don't think the area is underserved," he said. "We think it's under reported."

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