Lower Valley communities share graffiti success stories

TOPPENISH, Wash. -- Being aggressive has brought results in the fight against graffiti around the Yakima Valley. You see the vandalism almost every day driving around Yakima, but some cities have had success.

"We're able to find three different places that we'll be able to go out and paint," said Pastor Frank East.

That wasn't the case six years ago. You probably wouldn't be able to recognize what some neighborhoods in Toppenish used to look like.

"It's just terrible," said neighbor David Olivas. "We don't need it. It makes our town look like a war zone, gang zone."

Pastor Frank East got more than a dozen churches together in 2008 for graffiti cleanups. Now, he and Pastor Leonel Rodriguez tackle the problem with the Community Safety Network of Toppenish.

"Our city is becoming more cleaner," said Frank. "People taking more responsibility."

It usually takes a half-hour for two people to cover the city. The graffiti here gets painted once a week. Neighbors can tell the difference.

"How often do you get tagged or your neighbors?" asked KIMA.

"Not very often," said David.

Frank said the fast reaction has been effective at cutting into the problem. White Swan has had success doing the same thing.

Outlook also has made a dent in the graffiti. Leaders there credit it to block watches.

"I know that God has a plan and purpose for our city, and I get to be a part of that plan," said Frank.

Some communities like Sunnyside try to keep graffiti products out of the hands of kids. It's illegal there to sell them to anyone younger than 21. They also must be out of reach or somewhere they can be seen from the cash register.

It's illegal to sell spray paint or other products used for graffiti to anyone younger than 18 in Yakima and Toppenish. Businesses in Yakima must store these items in view of employees or keep them in a locked case.