By SHANNON WATKINS
Pulaski has seen some gang-style graffiti in the downtown area, but at least one local group isn’t interested in letting it stay or spread.
Pastor Desmond Barrett of Pulaski’s New Life Church of the Nazarene wants to paint over the graffiti with a group of his parishioners. Barrett is interested in getting rid of it and handling the problem effectively long-term.
“What we’re trying to do is just make the people aware that we as a town cannot constantly rely on government to take care of our problems,” said Barrett. “It takes people power and ingenuity and creative thinking to get things done. It would be the private sector of business working, it would be a religious organization, and then it’s also government with the laws that they could pass. So it’s a three-pronged approach. All that has to be in place before we can move forward.”
One portion of it is in the works. At the last Pulaski Town Council meeting, council passed a unanimous motion to direct staff to draft an ordinance addressing how to eradicate graffiti, using both civil strategies and criminal prosecution.
“I was surprised as anybody that we were already asking for an ordinance,” said Barrett. “I understand that the town police need to have ordinances before they can move forward. However, it’s a multi-step process. This is only the first step.”
Barrett wants the church’s graffiti cleanup efforts brought to the attention of the juvenile courts, so that youth offenders sentenced to community service can put in their hours with New Life. “We need to make sure we turn in our paperwork and then the court is made aware they can sentence young adults to help clean up graffiti in the town,” said Barrett.
He also would like to see private sector assistance as well. “Are stores willing to donate the extra paint that they have?” he asked regarding the cost of materials. “That could maybe be Sherwin Williams” or another store in town, he said. “Sometimes people return paint that they don’t use.”
Another concern on Barrett’s part is the rules and regulations of painting. “Do we paint just the graffiti, or do we paint the whole building?” he said. “Because if we only paint graffiti, which I would advocate, and not paint the overall space – because somebody could just graffiti a building, just so they could get their whole building repainted, you know – do we match the color, or do we just use the color we have? These are the things that need to be in place before we could move forward and I would be comfortable leading this cause.”
The gang graffiti problem isn’t new, according to Barrett; he noticed territorial markings on the old Jefferson School about a year and a half ago. “At the time I didn’t realize they were gang initials,” he said. “Since then, that has only gotten worse.” New Life painted over the graffiti at the time, but more has since been added, according to Barrett, and he said he believes there are four or five gangs trying to divide up territory in town. Numerous other graffiti have appeared on the building since then.
“We cannot expect the town of Pulaski, because of its limited resources and limited amount of money, to do everything. And so we in the community, if we want to clean up blight, if we want to make sure that our community is well-maintained, we have to have people power,” Barrett exhorted. “And so that’s what I’m trying to do, to encourage through this clean sweep. It should say to our people, ‘Let’s take back our streets, even if it’s a block at a time.’ It’s not a church affiliated or business affiliated or government affiliated thing. We want to say, ‘We are citizens of Pulaski, and we want to make our community a better place.’”