Erasing gang tags

2019-01-22 06:01
In a white button-down shirt and black slacks, JP Smith got his hands dirty and assisted in the removal of gang tags in Eastridge. PHOTO: Samantha Lee

In a white button-down shirt and black slacks, JP Smith got his hands dirty and assisted in the removal of gang tags in Eastridge. PHOTO: Samantha Lee

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With an estimated 10million m2 already rehabilitated, the City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement Anti-Graffiti Unit is on a mission to rid public open spaces of gang tags.

Last week Thursday, the unit spent the day in the Mitchell’s Plain area cleaning up spaces including New Woodlands, Eastridge, Beacon Valley and Tafelsig.

The areas were identified during operations and through notification from the community.

Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, says this forms part of a citywide Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) job creation project.

Last week, the City announced the expansion of the unit that will see 168 workers start as part of the unit in February.

“We have targets for creating EPWP posts and the City is the country’s best EPWP jobs creator. We create around 45 000 jobs in a year across the different directorates. One of the most labour-intensive projects that the Safety and Security Directorate does is this graffiti clean-up project,” says Smith.

Graffiti tagging, especially gang tagging, is destructive to the look of a community says Smith, adding that illegal graffiti is a concern.

“It is incredibly destructive to the visual aesthetic of a city and in turn the confidence of the people when an area has all these indicators of discord and disorder. Tagging says that this is a place where lawlessness reigns. Especially gang tagging, these indicate that it is an area where gangs are in charge and I am keen to delete their fingerprint off our communities,” says Smith.

The unit was started in 2010 with one officer and has since grown with millions of metres of gang tags removed from city walls.

The tagging unit spent the day in Mitchell’s Plain with the hope of removing as much of the tagging as possible.

An Eastridge family say they have only experienced a spike in gang activity in the last three years.

“There were always gangs but in he last few years, it has become so bad. The shootings, the drugs and the tagging are constant,” says the mother.

Her husband agrees, saying: “My son and I often walk around at night, trying to make sure there are no problems.”

Due to safety concerns, the family have asked to remain anonymous. They say the tagging is constant and that the gangs are very active on these fields.

“They use the houses walls as protection when there are shootings. They are on the parks very often at night and sometimes during the day,” another woman says.

The average cost of a day’s clean up could easily be around R2000, including paint and other supplies. “We are urging residents to inform us about the tagging so that we can come out and erase it,” says Smith.

“No community should have to live with their public open spaces claimed by the gangs. It is bad enough that gangs run through the parks with shoot-outs or selling drugs, making the parks unusable. We must at least make the parks aesthetically pleasing for the community, that is by cleaning it, keeping the play equipment installed and ridding the area of graffiti,” he says.

He says while it is another department that deals with the play equipment, the directorate is doing their part in clearing the graffiti.

“We tried to do this with multiple departments, however that did not work and this unit was formed,” says Smith.

“The staff work really fast and they do a good job of it,” says Smith.

In a statement, Smith added: “It can create the impression that no-one cares about the area; it can discourage business and it diverts funds that now have to be used to remove it, instead of being used for community programmes. Offensive or obscene graffiti can also affect residents’ sense of safety and security in their own communities.’’

The City’s Graffiti Unit, under the auspices of Law Enforcement, will be part of two teams tasked with cleaning up gang and illegal graffiti on the Cape Flats and in townships and suburbs.

The City’s EPWP database is centralised, and access to work opportunities is based on a computerised random selection process.

National guidelines prescribe that the EPWP work relates to any temporary work ranging from a day to the full duration of a project. The key focus is that all of these types of opportunities are temporary, and employment depends on the type of work on offer and the project duration.

“Negative images and words not only scar the urban landscape, but also those residents who have to look at it daily. Getting rid of gangster graffiti will help restore dignity to many communities and instil a sense of pride,” said Smith in the statement.

“The City recognises the value of public art and street artists as their work can inspire and provoke new thinking; it can beautify shared spaces, uplift communities, and tells the rich stories of our history.I want to encourage graffiti artists who want to do graffiti or public art to contact our Arts and Culture branch.”

For further information call the branch on 021 400 5944.
Illegal graffiti can be reported on 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.


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