By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Many of the dozens of graffiti markings that police said were made by a teenage boy are gone today.
Police said others will be removed next week.
An anti-graffiti unit from the Essex County Sheriff’s Department was in Haverhill for two days this week removing tags from buildings, walls and other structures.
The crew was in Haverhill on Monday and Wednesday and caught the attention of many drivers, who could not help but turn their heads to see what was going on.
Workers arrived in a Sheriff Department flatbed truck carrying a commercial pressure sprayer they used to wash away symbols painted on various properties, including the exterior walls of school buildings and businesses.
“The main thing is to remove it as fast as we can so it doesn’t attract more graffiti,” said Sgt. Christopher Goudreault, who supervises a crew of inmates from the Correctional Alternative Center in Lawrence who volunteer for the work.
Police said many of the markings were the work of a 16-year-old boy arrested last week and charged with multiple counts of malicious damage to property. The boy was arraigned on the charges in Lawrence Juvenile Court last week and this week police brought additional charges against him. In all, police have charged the boy with more than 30 counts of malicious damage to property, as well as four counts of receiving stolen property — stolen license plates and city street signs.
Police said the boy went on a tagging spree and used cans of blue spray paint to vandalize mostly commercial properties with the letters “KOSK.” Police said there were other reports of graffiti that are not linked to the boy.
The Sheriff’s Department crew used a high-pressure spray of water mixed with environmentally safe baking soda to remove paint from walls and other surfaces. Goudreault said the baking soda acts as an abrasive while the water keeps dust in check.
On Wednesday, the crew used the high-pressure spray to remove painted markings from a wall along the Main Street side of the Woolworth building, the front wall of a business in Central Plaza and a retaining wall in front of the plaza. Workers also removed markings from a retaining wall in front of All Saints Church, a wall at Nettle Middle School and from an area at Pentucket Lake School.
On the Monday following the Fourth of July, a custodian at Nettle School discovered a spray-painted image of a mouth and teeth and what appeared to be a large bloated image of the letter “S” on the building’s rear brick wall. The symbols were removed by the anti-graffiti unit as well.
Police said one of the best ways to combat graffiti is to have it removed as soon as it is discovered.
“If it’s left up, it can entice others to vandalize the same area,” police Lt. Robert Pistone said about graffiti and tags. “Also, graffiti gives a sense of disorder, so we want to catch these people and have it cleaned up as soon as possible.”
The anti-graffiti unit was called to Haverhill at the request of local police and the city’s Department of Public Works. The crew plans to return to Haverhill next week to clean off any markings it missed this week, along with any new tags that are reported. Goudreault said the anti-graffiti unit travels from community to community removing graffiti.