Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Midtown graffiti - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Midtown graffiti

By Joe Birch - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A mural project brightens up Union at Cleveland. The building owner found the 30 by 20 foot paintings through the Center for Southern Folklore. It's outdoor art people enjoy, a far cry from the jumble of alphabet soup that colors the walls of the old Anderton's Restaurant.

"The feedback from most of the Midtown businesses is that they want these people prosecuted for destroying their property," said Memphis Police Col. Billy Garrett. "It hurts the community. It hurts the spirit of the community."

Garrett, who works out of the MPS's Union Station, says the vast majority of Midtown graffiti is the work of adolescents who do not belong to criminal gangs. But Garrett says the average observer assumes spray paint equals trouble:

"They think, well, there goes the neighborhood," he said.

That's why neighborhoods like Cooper-Young fight back aggressively.  Andy Ashby, a reporter for the Memphis Business Journal, leads Cooper Young's beautification committee that keeps a budget for graffiti removal and with elbow grease and perseverance.

Ashby keeps erasing unsightly spray paint:

"This is our home and we work really hard to take care of it," he said.

Beth Flanagan of the Medical Center follows police suggestions on graffiti: report it, photograph it then remove it!

"The goal is to get it down, take care of it right away, and show that we're not going to allow it," she said. "We're going to go ahead and take care of the problem right then."

Business owners send pictures of the unwanted scribble to police regularly. Officers say citizen reports help them know behavior patterns that can lead to the arrest of hard to catch spray painters.

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