Fighting paint with paint: 'The more we do this, the better it will be'

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Thousands of gang related tags at hundreds of sites around Springfield slow down law enforcement , according to Springfield police, but a new volunteer graffiti squad is helping paint over the problem in the city.

"It sort of makes it invisible," said Springfield police volunteer Dave Spiro as he sprayed painted over graffiti plastered on a pole near Pioneer Parkway in Springfield. "You're not actually seeing the tagging or the graffiti."

Spiro is part of a group of volunteers who clean up graffiti around the city by painting over the tags or wiping away the marks with heavy duty chemicals.

But the volunteers aren't just cleaning up the city. Springfield Police Sergeant John Umenhofer said they're helping solve cases by cataloging each tag for future law enforcement investigations.

"Because they were documenting where the sites were," said Umenhofer as he stood in front of a wall near Pioneer Parkway covered in graffiti. "And when we arrested the person that we knew was doing it, then we knew that he was responsible for literally a hundred sites."

Umenhofer said gang members or want-to-be gang members tag public property in Springfield to mark their "supposed" territory.

"But we are here to tell you that with the citizens of Springfield, it's their territory, not the painters, not the taggers," said Umenhofer.

"It's very ugly," said Spiro. "It's a real mess and the people that do that kind of should think before they act."

Umenhofer said tagging is a misdemeanor crime, but offenders can still receive several months in jail if convicted.

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