Stamping Out Graffiti in Toppenish

For years, Pastor Frank East has waged a war against graffiti.

Half a decade ago, the streets of Toppenish were littered with spray paint and territorial marks.

"I would say probably 60% of the surfaces in Toppenish were covered with graffiti at the time."

All that has changed today.

East helped kickstart a campaign with several other churches in the area to go out and cover up the blemishes across town at least twice a month.

For some time, it seemed like the odds were against them, tracking down dozens of spraypainted spots every week.

But after years of persistence and over 2,000 gallons of paint -- it looks like the group has finally outworked taggers in the area.

When the group started five years ago, they were hitting an average of 25-30 places a week, nowadays, they can hardly find 3-4.

"We enjoy just bringing about a clean surface," said Pastor Frank, "As we do that, of course we pray for the individuals who had printed the graffiti on there, knowing that they've just lost their way."

Police even say the community has stepped up in the effort to stamp out tagging.

"They've started to come out more and be involved with the community activities," said Sergeant Jake Church, "We've seen a decrease in gang related violent crime, which has been notable."

Pastor Frank says about 95% of the graffiti has been wiped out since he started the campaign, but there's still more work left to be done.

"This is an opportunity just to let people know we care about them and they can be proud about the community they live in," said Pastor Frank.

Safe Yakima Valley launched its Graffiti Be Gone campaign almost two weeks ago -- it's aimed at raising awareness and putting a stop to illegal tagging throughout the county.

The organization will host a community-wide clean up this Saturday.

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