Veterans to battle Daly City’s graffiti

A rash of graffiti is plaguing the streets of Daly City, police said, and the ongoing problem could not have come at a worse time, with the recent retirement of the city’s graffiti cleanup crew.

But help is on the way. This week, three war veterans — two of whom are in their 80s — have volunteered to replace the retiring crew.

“We want to stay active with the community and there is no better way to do it than getting involved in the graffiti cleanup,” explained Peter Jalgunas, 80, who heads the local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars, a nationwide organization.

In Dec. 18, a small group of volunteers — mostly elderly people, police said — retired due to old age after helping the city’s public works department clean up graffiti on private property in recent years. Since their retirement, tags have accumulated on stores, parking lots and abandoned buildings around Mission Street and other neighborhoods, authorities said.

“We are experiencing an upswing in the last couple of months, and some of it has to do with gang activity that goes in cycles,” said Daly City police Sgt. Dave Mackriss, who did not have exact figures on many graffiti incidents reported since the group’s retirement.

The veterans are planning to take over the duties in mid-February. Jalgunas, a Korean War veteran who lives in the Serramonte neighborhood, said he will be recruiting the help of local high school students and homeowners associations.

New volunteers would cut any expanded duties the public works department would have shouldered had no one stepped forward, officials said. Public works officials already spend close to 20 hours a week cleaning city buildings and street signs, interim public works Director Patrick Sweetland said. He said that public works officials are assigned to clean graffiti off public buildings while custodians scrub tagged school walls.

“We are very happy that people are stepping up,” Sweetland said. “We had a very strong core of citizens as a tremendous local asset, so now we’re working on a transition.”

The new volunteers have to learn how to track new graffiti and coordinate efforts with the police and the public works department, Sweetland said.

The veterans said they are excited to take over the duties and hope to learn all the tricks of the trade from former volunteers.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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