SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) -Their job is a seek and destroy graffiti in Salt Lake County. Simply put – they find and paint tags and graffiti. We’re talking about the Graffiti Guys at the Unified Police Department. ABC4’s Don Hudson shares their story in our Behind the Badge report.
Now you see it. Now you don’t. That is the essence of Paul Malouf and Jaren Payne’s job with Unified Police.
“It’s immensely satisfying to clean up the neighborhood,” says Paul.
They are part of the police department’s Residents Against Graffiti team, and Paul says they do much more than seek out and cover up.
“All the tags are photographed prior to painting or removing. They’re logged into a database. And we catalog who the tagger is or what the gang tag was.”
That information is shared with police investigators. And both Paul and Jaren are humbled to play a role in keeping track of criminal activities.
“We get to go to gang conferences and learn a little bit about what they do – with narcotics, homicide, gang control and prevention. And that was right there with them and we play a small part in that – it really is humbling.”
The graffiti team’s goal is to remove or cover tags and graffiti within 24 hours of getting a report or finding it on their own.
Jaren says “It’s immensely satisfying to clean up that neighborhood and see that wall that had a bunch of curse words on it or graphic pictures on it and have it look normal again.”
Paul says “We’re not anti-art it just comes down to a matter of code enforcement – decency laws – you can’t just put anything out there.”
They have the option of removing or covering what they find depending on the texture of the so-called street canvas.
“If its non-porous or manmade metal, plastic, something like that – we can usually try the solvent first If its something like concrete, stucco or wood – we usually paint over it,’ says Paul.
Jaren says sometimes as they covering up graffiti – the public mistakes them for the taggers.
“People are like ‘what are you doing? – we’re calling the cops – they’re on their way.’ Or they’ll honk as they drive by drawing attention to it.” But they understand – they don’t always look like they are a part of the police department.
“From a distance, it’s probably easy some guy in a black hoodie spray painting on a pole.”
And sometimes they say – people think they are police officers. And while they’re proud to be part of the Unified Police Department, they’re quick to point out there is a big difference between what they do and what officers do.
“We’re around these police officers who do a really hard job and comparatively our job doesn’t compare – our biggest issue is traffic and which color to paint the wall.”
But it doesn’t mean they don’t take their job seriously. In fact, they say they’re in the graffiti war to win. “Were doing this full time and were eventually going to win out – we’ve got the backing of Unified police – helping us out – funding us – supplying us with paint and supplies.”
The graffiti guys say the taggers have left a few messages in their graffiti aimed at them. Some are polite requests and some messages can’t be shared on TV.
To learn more about Residents Against Graffiti program and how you can contact them about graffiti you see click this link or to report graffiti – Inside UPD Jurisdiction Call: 385.468.9769 or Email: email@example.com and Outside of UPD Jurisdiction Call: Salt Lake City Graffiti Program 801.972.7885 and for Interstate graffiti Call: The Utah Department of Transportation 801.265.9267
And to nominate someone for a future Behind the Badge story, visit https://www.abc4.com/badge.