The Town of Oro Valley has stepped up efforts to fight graffiti in the community, bringing in resources that include property management companies, businesses and students from the community's two public high schools.

Last Saturday, students in the National Honor Society chapter at Canyon Del Oro High School began cleaning up graffiti. They started their work, using painting supplies donated by Home Depot of Oro Valley, on the bridge over Big Wash at Rancho Vistoso Boulevard.

"Hopefully, there will not be that much work for them," said Mary Davis, Oro Valley communications director. "That's our goal."

Students from Ironwood Ridge High School's video and graphics design programs are developing a public information campaign highlighting the high cost of graffiti for the community. Plans are to unveil their campaign in April.

Incidents of graffiti in Oro Valley have more than doubled in January and February of this year as compared to the same time last year. Oro Valley formed a staff task force to address the subject.

"It's not just a town problem, it's a community problem," Davis said. "People understand that."

The town is asking for increased citizen vigilance, and prompt response.

"We've got to get it out within the first 24 hours," Davis said. "It fosters more, the longer it stays up. It's statistically proven, it just fosters more crime.

"We want people to call us if they physically or financially are unable to remove it in a timely manner," Davis said. If graffiti is smaller than 4-by-4 feet, "we'll do it," even if it's on private property.

Some citizens "aren't comfortable calling 911 if they see graffiti happening, because they don't think it's a serious crime," Davis said. But, she pointed out, graffiti is linked to gang activity. "There is increased gang activity in the high schools, which is unfortunate."

Catalina residents saw an increase in graffiti during January, much of it along Oracle through the heart of the community.

"Graffiti is sometimes gang-related and sometimes it is just individuals tagging, "said Pima County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Erin Gibson. "As of now, we don't know if the graffiti in the Catalina area is gang-related."

Oro Valley has had "overwhelming community response," Davis noted.

Cadden Management and Lewis Management, two of the largest HOA management companies in Oro Valley, are also joining efforts to help eradicate graffiti in their communities by stepping up education efforts and helping homeowners understand the importance of removing graffiti as quickly as possible so as not to encourage more activity, Davis said.

To report graffiti in Oro Valley, the public is asked to call 229-4900.

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