PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) – A “one-man graffiti removal task force” is making the city more attractive by deleting one tag at a time.
Richard Schneider, 60, is retired and able to make his own schedule – which now includes a self-appointed vandalism patrol.
Since a spate of graffiti on buildings offended him in May, he has patrolled parts of the city seeking out vandalism and destroying it with a fresh coat of paint.
“(Port Angeles residents are) good, hard-working people who don’t deserve this,” Schneider said.
In the past three months, Schneider has removed about 70 instances of graffiti, ranging from wall-sized tags to inked initials on street posts.
This endeavor earned him the “one-man graffiti removal task force” title from Revitalize Port Angeles founder Leslie Robertson.
Schneider is also an administrator and moderator for the Revitalize Port Angeles Facebook page.
He said it has been his desire to remove graffiti the next day to discourage those who put it there.
However, he isn’t interested in actively seeking out and arresting the perpetrator in every single case of vandalism.
“It’s not a war. It’s housekeeping,” he said.
Schneider said he is far from alone in his efforts.
Port Angeles Police and the city Parks and Recreation Department have aided in that effort, he said.
The police have caught two people in connection to major vandalism incidents, and a parks department crew removes any graffiti from park and other city properties as quickly as possible.
The dual response provides high risk for low reward for vandals, who typically want their work to be seen by others, he said.
Schneider has been a resident of Port Angeles since 2001, when, as a National Park Service employee, he was transferred to Olympic National Park.
Once he arrived, he decided to stay after retirement.
“It’s a pleasant place to be – relaxed and laid back,” he said.
Before he worked for the Park Service, Schneider worked in cabinetry and remodeling, and so has some skills in working with paint.
In some cases, such as initials written on a street post, it can be as simple as using a solvent or cleaner.
When possible, Schneider matches paint as closely as he can using either his own paint from household projects or paints from local construction material recycling centers.
In the case of a large area of graffiti on the back of Armory Square, the building owners provided paint that remained from when the entire building was painted about two years ago, Schneider said.
“We did our best to make it seamless,” he said.
Schneider usually works alone, driving alleys and stopping anywhere he spots vandalism, but two other Revitalize Port Angeles members are also on the warpath against graffiti – Robert Nicholls of White Crane Martial Arts and retired educator Carol Sinton.
Nicholls patrols downtown alleys to remove tags while Sinton has adopted the Laurel Street stairs as a special project.
“(Sinton) walks it every day,” Schneider said.
When the vandalism is on private property, he said, they first must get permission from the property owner before getting to work.
Schneider found vandalism Monday on the alley wall behind Bar N9ne, just a building away from a large square of gray paint on the structure next door where he covered some graffiti only a few weeks earlier.
Schneider didn’t even sigh. He just made plans to contact the owner of the building to get started.
“It would be nice to start a crew who can respond quickly,” Schneider said.
Currently, business owners and residents report incidents of vandalism on the Revitalize Port Angeles Facebook page, he said.