Group battles to clean French Quarter

Volunteers spread across French Quarter to remove graffiti

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Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON–Tourists gawk at Daniel Restivo as he stands on the back of Robbie Ludlow with Vieux Carre Graffiti Abatement Program as the two remove stickers and graffiti from a street sign on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter in New Orleans, La. Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013.

Group Battles to Clean Quarter – By Dan lawton

Armed with spray bottles, stepladders and a host of cleaning supplies, more than 100 volunteers set out to do battle Saturday in the long-running war against graffiti in the French Quarter.
The clean-up effort was organized by the Vieux Carre Graffiti Abatement Program, a 3-year-old initiative of the French Quarter Business Association that works alongside the Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office to increase public awareness of the illicit markings and crack down on those who create them.
“The French Quarter is a place that people flock to do graffiti,” said Annie Flettrich, executive director of the business association. “This is a community effort to see what we can do to prevent it.”
Flettrich said that in addition to occasional group clean-ups, which are focused on public structures such as street signs, the program also provides resources to owners of private buildings that become victims of graffiti “taggers.”

According to Gail Cavett, a French Quarter resident and a member of the program’s board, building owners are required to remove graffiti within 30 days or risk citation by the Vieux Carre Commission.

“If we see graffiti on a building, we’ll stop by and say, ‘We’re your neighbor, and we want to help you,’” Cavett said. She added that the program provides lists of approved graffiti-removal products and of professionals with experience removing the markings.
Removing graffiti quickly is key to preventing their creators from coming back, Cavett said. “With these guys, it’s all about bragging rights. If you get it off immediately, they will stop tagging your block,” she said.

Those associated with the effort said they believe the extent of graffiti has declined in the French Quarter over the past three years, but admitted the problem is persistent. In many cases, the group says it is hard to tell whether graffiti artists are simply relocating to other parts of the city.
Commander Jeffrey Walls, who oversees the 8th Police District, which includes the French Quarter, said that a lack of reporting of graffiti offenses and the speed with which buildings can be defaced make it difficult to catch perpetrators.