VOLUNTEERS GIVE TAGGERS THE BRUSH-OFF.

Byline: Jesse Hiestand Daily News Staff WriterGregory Kofman's tagging crew is 150 strong, deft with paint
and intimately familiar with the cryptic scrawls of gang graffiti.

What makes Kofman's crew different from all others is that he
and the Community Tagger Task Force don't make graffiti - they wipe
it out.

They spend their time slapping gallons of Palomino beige on
spray-painted walls, erasing as quickly as possible whatever gangs and
others leave to let the world know they exist.

``We're effectively removing their reason for
tagging,'' said Kofman, a 38-year-old chiropractor who fights
the blight on streets around his office on Vineland Avenue in North
Hollywood. ``It's like making a raid.''

Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks recently hailed the group
as key in helping to http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/prohealth-chiropractic-wellness-center-north-bethesda?select=6-HYiiOKp-cV7-9cttBcBA - chiropractic assistant training North Bethesda MD - remove graffiti in the San Fernando Valley - and a
model to be copied citywide.

``It's something that we think is really a model of how to
address a quality-of-life issue in the city,'' Parks said.

The Valley's top police official agreed.

``The fact that graffiti vandalism is down in the San Fernando
Valley is in part responsible for the reduction in crime in the
Valley,'' Deputy Chief Mike Bostic told Kofman and 44 other
volunteers recently at a recognition ceremony. ``It's not just the
fear of crime but the number of actual crimes that you're helping
us reduce.''

Their work is so effective that some volunteers, among them Kofman,
say that finding graffiti to erase in their areas is becoming
increasingly difficult.

When he first volunteered three years ago, Kofman said there was somuch graffiti that he had to spend at least five hours a week.Now, he can complete his work in an hour a month.

``It's so important to get rid of it right away,''
he said. ``If a guy does a tag and goes to his friend's house and
comes back an hour later and it's gone, then he knows there's
someone real close keeping an eye on him.''

Not only do the volunteers paint over the vandalism, but they take
photos of it and pass the information to police and prosecutors. It has
helped investigators target leaders of the ``tagger crews''
and convict 20 adults and 60 juveniles of graffiti vandalism.

Need for information

The task force has its genesis at the Los Angeles Police
Department's Van Nuys Division in 1991, when officers began to
gather information about taggers but did not have funding to start a
dedicated anti-graffiti unit, Bostic said.

Two years later, the Valley's then-top official, Mark Kroeker,
authorized the volunteer task force. The cost to the department is the
salary of Officer Jerry Beck, the program's coordinator, and the $6
a year that reserve Officer Ivor Alan-Lee takes in token compensation
for training the volunteers.

The cameras, film, paint and brushes are donated by individuals and
homeowner groups, Beck said. And virtually every community in the Valley
has volunteers.

The graffiti problem

Although graffiti vandalism has declined markedly, it http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/prohealth-chiropractic-wellness-center-north-bethesda?select=ShE0ImzcSBv2Mbnb2nAu_A - chiropractic supplies North Bethesda MD - would be
naive to assume it would ever disappear altogether and a tremendous
amount of abatement work is left in certain areas of the Valley, he
said.

What has worked so far is that http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/prohealth-chiropractic-wellness-center-north-bethesda?select=1L57g8MsXuG85HQvwe81bg - chiropractic school rankings North Bethesda MD - by going after the leaders of the
tagging groups, police have scared off the followers. Also, quickly
painting over the graffiti frustrates the taggers, either prompting them
to quit or move to another area.

For the most part, the taggers are boys ages 12 to 17 who seek
quick notoriety with a can of spray paint.

``Their little tagger crew buddies give these guys kudos when they
have a spectacular piece of graffiti,'' Beck said. ``It's
just an amazing phenomenon that someone gets congratulated for damaging
someone else's property.''

Playing into the problem is some business owners' reluctance
to clean up their graffiti-splattered walls.

In such cases, the task force volunteers put the owners on formalnotice that they have two weeks to clean it up or face paying $800 ormore for the city to do it.Street by street

Armed with the threat of a fine and a ready paint brush, volunteers
Kurt Von Mulkey and Harold Buskirk have attacked graffiti blight in the
west Valley between Lankershim and Sepulveda boulevards.

Starting with Ventura Boulevard, Von Mulkey said, they taken back
street after street, pressing northward to Riverside Drive, then
Magnolia Boulevard and soon Burbank Boulevard.

``If graffiti is up a long time, it becomes a landmark,''
he said. ``You have to train them by painting it over right away so they
realize it's a waste of the paint they buy or steal. It might take
three or more times before they realize the graffiti they put up
won't be there, so they don't bother.''

Another volunteer who was honored this past week, Carol Monka, 46,
said she and retired electrical contractor Jim Wismer, 72, have reduced
graffiti in their neighborhood of Valley Village to almost nil.

``Some days we don't get any and I think they're
scared,'' she said. ``They see us out there with our cameras
and we're not afraid of them. They know by now not to do it in our
neighborhood.''

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO (color) Dr. Gregory Kofman takes an active role in wiping out
graffiti.

Tom Mendoza/Daily News