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Graffiti more than ugly, it is an economic woe

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Graffiti-painted neighborhoods spell out gang territory while making Albany unattractive to businesses thinking about moving here, officials said.

"The (Albany Area) Chamber of Commerce takes businesses on tours to the part of the city they want them to see," said Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard, at the monthly 10 a.m. Saturday town meeting he hosted.

"But they come back and look at the whole city. They see graffiti and trash; they don't want to bring their business here."

Not only is it important for residents to take back their neighborhoods from gangs through neighborhood watch efforts, they must also report any gang graffiti painted in their area, said Judy Bowles, executive director of Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful. "If we send a message we don't care about our neighborhoods by allowing the gang graffiti," Bowles said, "businesses won't want to come here. Gangs and their graffiti are an economic development issue."

In the most recent clean-up effort sponsored by her organization, 2,716 people showed up and picked up 34 tons of trash debris from the city, she said. People have to also work to eliminate the spray-painted graffiti, she said.

"You have to be the eyes and ears of your neighborhoods," Bowles told the audience of about 30. "Pick up the phone and call our officers."

A great new tool in the fight against gang graffiti is the Non-Emergency 311 Call Center, said Albany Police Department Gang Unit Lt. Tony Moore.

"I love it. Call 311 and they will put you through to us," Moore said. "They make a note of the date and time of the call. We have to respond in two days. There was graffiti on 1900 South Washington.

Someone called 311 and in three days the business owner had it removed."

The 311 Call Center is a service of Albany, Dougherty County and Water, Gas & Light to assist with local government service requests. If it is an emergency call 911, officials said. But to have a street lamp fixed or to report graffiti 311 can be used.

The center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. At other times a message can be left until the office opens again.