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By Sandra Emerson, Redlands Daily Facts
REDLANDS >> Mark Buskirk painted over gold graffiti on a building near Sixth Street and Colton Avenue on a warm Thursday morning.
Buskirk is the city’s one-man graffiti abatement crew, spending his days cleaning up after taggers and vandals in order to keep the city looking its best.
“I do this all with a smile. This is my community. I moved here and I work here. I have a lot of pride in what I do,” said Buskirk, holding a soaked paint roller.
Since the elimination of city redevelopment agencies, Buskirk’s position is split 75 percent with the Police Department and 25 percent with development services.
Buskirk, originally from Beaumont, has a background in electronics. He had previously worked in the aerospace industry.
For the past seven years, he has been helping to keep the city clean and graffiti free.
“If people say Redlands doesn’t have a graffiti problem that’s because we’re on top of it,” he said.
The Redlands 311 application has made locating graffiti, vandalism and problems with city infrastructure easier for city employees.
When someone spots a problem in town, they can send photos and location information to the city through the app either on a smartphone or online.
Buskirk gets alerted immediately and often can correct the problem the same day.
Sometimes he will use a work release crew, but usually the clean up is all on Buskirk.
“It’s good and I don’t mind,” he said.
Over the past year, Buskirk said he has resolved more than 1,000 incidents of graffiti, totaling more than 192,000 square feet.
Once he arrives at a scene, Buskirk will input photos of the tagging into the Police Department’s computer aided dispatch and record management system software, called Spillman.
This information helps officers in the department’s Multi-Enforcement Team to track down the suspects.
The graffiti has been connected to gangs in Redlands, San Bernardino and even as far as Los Angeles.
Damages estimated to be more than $400 is considered a felony. Less than that is considered a misdemeanor, Buskirk said.
But, the cost of materials used to abate the graffiti in addition to Buskirk’s time and pay can push the total into the thousands of dollars range, he said.
Buskirk said he spends much of his time on the north end of the city and lately, there has been an increase in tagging in the industrial parks on the west end.
“We’re starting to see an influx over there too,” he said.
Taggers and vandals also target the city’s parks. Buskirk is in the process of cleaning up one of the city parks that had been hit pretty hard.
If the abatement occurs on private property, the owner is asked to sign a waiver, but is not required to pay.
Buskirk’s paints are donated by his brother-in-law, who is a contractor.
“I get some really nice colors,” he said. “I like the pastels.”
He will have paint tinted or mixed to the appropriate colors at Dave’s Paint N’ Paper in Redlands, to keep business in town.
“I firmly believe in staying local,” he said.