In front of a group of interested parties, Kelly Parsons, from the Hermiston, Ore. Police Department, demonstrates soda blasting on an exterior brick wall of Darrah's Framing and Decorator Center Inc. The new technique is used to remove unwanted tags or other markings without having to paint over surfaces or otherwise damage them.
Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.
WALLA WALLA — Removing graffiti can help reduce gang violence, according to Hermiston Police Office Kelly Parsons, who demonstrated a soda blasting machine for Walla Walla crime prevention volunteers and police officers last week.
Currently, Dick Morgan and Dave Raappana, graffiti abatement volunteers, paint over graffiti in Walla Walla.
“We don’t make it look much better,” Morgan said. “We don’t do pretty,”
Morgan said he and Raappana use donated paint in an effort to combat gang graffiti, and often property owners don’t want paint on wood fences or brick walls.
“There’s no way that I can paint and make the property owner happy,” Morgan said.
Not only can paint be ugly, it isn’t as effective as completely removing graffiti, and restoring the tagged surface to its original condition, Parsons said during the soda-blasting demonstration.
Parsons started his demonstration by blasting a roughly 3-foot-by-4-foot section of brick wall that had been tagged with gang graffiti near the Land Title building in Walla Walla. The soda blaster uses a high-pressure stream of common baking soda, powered by a large air compressor.
In less than a minute (less time than it took to fire up the machinery used to power the soda blaster) Parsons had removed the black marks, leaving the brick wall restored to almost new condition. Residual soda blew away in the light breeze, leaving almost no trace of the cleanup.
According to Parsons, the Hermiston Police Department began using the soda blasting machine just over a year ago, and has seen a sharp decline in the number of graffiti reports in town.
“We were dealing with quite a bit,” Parsons said. “The quickest way to defeat graffiti is to get rid of it.”
Parsons added that painting over graffiti still leaves some evidence of graffiti for gangs to identify.
“If we can remove it before it gets tagged over, they can’t blame the other gang,” Parsons said.
According to Officer Tim Bennett, Walla Walla police spokesman, the Police Department and the Walla Walla Area Crime Watch are exploring funding options for a soda blasting system, though no definite plans have been made.