In every major city, wherever there is an empty wall space, one might find the not so special artwork of graffiti casting a blight on the surface. While some may think of it as wasted artistic talent, this type of nuisance and eyesore can pose a threat to public safety, or even subject an area to increased vandalism and crime.

So explains Natali Hurtado, executive director of International Management District. For that reason, the district has contracted with East End Management District’s Graffiti removal crew, headed by Martin Chavez.

“We offer this because we really care about our businesses, and also about having a clean feel to our area,” Hurtado said. “We do what we can to support our businesses and help maintain them to look and feel as good as possible.”

Much of the graffiti these days is tied to gang activity, so it is more than a beautifying measure; it is in reality a matter of public safety.

As often as needed, Chavez’ team brings a truck into the area with a variety of 60 colors of paints and special solvents to eradicate graffiti art and “tags.”

Taggers learn quickly that their work will be removed and that deters them from returning. It is also reported to area law enforcement. Businesses may receive a city citation — a municipal court ticket — if they do not remove graffiti quickly enough.

“Business owners are required to remove graffiti and to do it quickly,” explains Fred Bhandara, a business owner in International District and a district board member. He has shopping centers, several office buildings and some apartment complexes and says it is hard to keep up with each and every graffiti marking.

“I have received citations, simply because we were unaware of a fresh tag,” Bhandara said. “I have a property right across from a high school and the social gangs from there mark it up. I simply make a phone call, and the graffiti gets removed. It’s a convenience I am glad to have.”

Forms are available online at the  Management District’s website to report graffiti, and reports of completed abatements can also be found there, along with before-and-after photos.

“This program helps keep up our area and the removal team does a good job,” Bhandara said. “Our area benefits from it and it is needed.”

Chavez, director of operations for East End Management, has been overseeing the graffiti abatement team since it began 20 years ago.

“We do this service for multiple management (or improvement) districts, and for the City of Houston (for public buildings_ and the Houston Parks Board by contract, and we perform this service according to the amount of need in each area,” Chavez explained.

He is proud of the work his teams do in matching paint color and in restoring the surface to what it was before the graffiti incident. From brick, to stop signs, to painted surfaces, they try their best to do an exact match by using a “tint” machine to make sure paint colors match.

“It’s important that it looks good after we finish,” Chavez said.

By Arlene Nisson Lassin