By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — SALEM — The sound barrier on Route 111 was tagged by graffiti vandals almost as soon as it was built.
That’s been bugging police Sgt. Marc Prescott for a long time.
He’s bothered, too, by graffiti on state highway bridges, buildings in Salem Depot and elsewhere.
On Saturday, Prescott and other off-duty officers will take to the streets, paint cans in hand, and clean up what vandals have marked.
He said he hopes his three children and those of several other officers will learn from the experience.
”I want to teach my kids a lesson about community involvement,” Prescott said. “They’re excited. They thought it was a neat idea. We try to teach them graffiti is bad for the town.”
It’s not a police department activity, according to Deputy Chief Shawn Patten, but administrators do applaud the efforts.
”It’s a couple of officers who actually live in the community, taking an active role on their own,” Patten said. “It’s Sgt. Prescott’s idea of a way to teach kids about community activity. We think it’s a great thing.”
The volunteers will use paint and other supplies donated by Sherwin Williams, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Benjamin Moore.
Prescott expects to put in a full day.
”If we can finish it, great,” he said. “If not, we’ll finish it another day.”
He said the group will target about 16 different areas now marred by graffiti.
“It’s heavy in a certain number of areas,” he said. “We’ve gotten approval from property owners. We’ll paint it over, doing our best to match the background.”
Prescott said he invited all police department employees to participate.
So far, Officer Matt Norcross, Detective Eric Dugas and Detective Robert Genest plan to help out, along with their children. Detective Mike Geha will assist with traffic control, Prescott said.
Safety is a top concern, since many of the areas to be painted are along the highway. A cruiser will alert motorists to the cleanup activity.
In years past, individuals convicted of graffiti tagging were often sentenced to paint it over, Prescott said. But it’s been a while since that has happened, he said.
Once the graffiti has been covered with fresh paint, police will step up patrols to make sure the walls, bridges and buildings stay clean, he said.