Within the past few weeks, Baldwin sanitation workers teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce to remove 23 instances of graffiti and vandalism around Baldwin, South Hempstead and Roosevelt.
To keep Baldwin beautiful, Baldwin chamber members work with Sanitary District No. 2 by identifying sites of graffiti or the defacing of public property, such as illegal stickers placed on stop signs, and notifying the Sanitation Department, which then sends out its “graffiti truck” to restore the area.
“Graffiti begets graffiti,” said Jerry Brown, chairman of the board of sanitation commissioners. He said that sanitation workers clean or paint over the graffiti or stickers right away, so that other vandals will be discouraged from adding more.
Brown said Sanitation 2 goes by the New York state mission to combat the issue: “Graffiti costs American communities more than $8 billion per year. It hurts property values, drives away business and sends the message that nobody cares about the community. Graffiti is everybody’s problem.”
Doug Wiedmann, secretary to the board of sanitation commissioners, and Chamber President Erik Mahler agreed with Brown.
“The Chamber of Commerce feels very strongly with the broken windows theory instituted in New York City under [Mayor Rudy] Giuliani,” Mahler said. “Sanitary District 2 has been instrumental in keeping Baldwin a beautiful place to live and work.”
The broken windows theory, popularized by Giuliani in the 1990s, suggests that visible signs of crime or civil disorder create an environment that encourages further crime and disorder. Targeting minor crimes like vandalism and littering is said to help create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, and prevents more serious crimes.
Once a vandalized site is identified, Brown said sanitation workers paint over it if they can’t wash it off. They’ll find a paint color as close to the original paint as they can, and notify the Nassau County police gang task force.
The police keep records of the graffiti, the commissioners said, especially if there is a tag, or a vandal’s personalized signature. They can then compare the tags to those of the past and monitor any patterns.
Wiedmann said they also work with police by sending photos of the graffiti, adding that most of the defacing of public property occurs in commercial areas. Brown said the system has improved lately because all agencies involved are working well together to eliminate graffiti.
“When everybody works together things run so much smoother,” Wiedmann said. “It’s definitely working to eradicate it.”
Brown added that the sanitation department is seeking a grant from the Town of Hempstead or Nassau County for a sandblaster that could remove graffiti with minimal or no damage to a building. And Wiedmann said the sandblaster would serve as a multipurpose tool for the department.
“It could be used for graffiti removal, but we could also use it for repairs and stuff in the shop like welding,” he said.
“Graffiti is a blight on our community, and it’s important to pool our resources so we are equipped to swiftly address all reports of vandalism,” Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé, a Democrat from Freeport, said. “Sani 2 does a wonderful job of preserving our quality of life through its graffiti-fighting efforts, and I am pleased to partner with the Town of Hempstead and the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce in support of this essential work.”
“As a former civic leader, a pet peeve of mine is having graffiti destroy the suburban landscape of the community,” said Chris Carini, the Hempstead Town Councilman-elect whose district covers parts of Baldwin. His term begins Jan. 1. He urged residents to contact his office to have graffiti or stickers removed from any town properties or signs as soon as possible.
“I take it seriously, and I think it’s an eyesore,” Carini said. “It reduces property values, and there’s definitely an impact on the quality of life in the neighborhoods.”
Brown encouraged people to report any spotted graffiti to Sanitary District No. 2 by calling (516) 223-3207.