By Mike LaBella
---- — It’s been a repeat image in the city toward the end of this summer.
Men holding high-powered hoses that target graffiti.
The Sheriff Department’s graffiti removal truck has been in Haverhill several times in the last two months to clean areas that were tagged with painted letters and symbols.
The effort is to remove the markings so they don’t attract even more graffiti.
The most recent effort focused on black metal railings on the Comeau Bridge, retaining walls near the Bradford commuter train station, a guard rail in that area and concrete stairs at the public library.
A trained crew of three workers supervised by Sgt. Christopher of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department spent nearly a full work day in Haverhill recently at the request of the city’s Highway Department.
It was the sixth or seventh time this year that the anti-graffiti unit from the Sheriff’s Department came to the city to remove graffiti.
Police said that allowing graffiti to linger tends to attract more graffiti, so the best way to combat the problem is by having it removed as soon as possible.
That’s where the anti-graffiti crew comes in. It is available to all communities in Essex County that request the services.
“We basically spent the whole day in that area,’’ Goudreault said about the Bradford side of the Comeau Bridge during the crew’s last visit to Haverhill. “There was quite a bit of tagging to remove.’’
David Van Dam, chief of staff to Mayor James Fiorentini, said any time graffiti and tagging is reported, the city responds to it quickly by reaching out to the Sheriff’s Department.
“Usually within five days or less they respond and at no cost to the city,” Van Dam said. “The only limitation is they can’t use the spray in the winter as it can freeze.
“Sometimes in the spring we have a backlog of graffiti,” Van Dam said. “We are ahead of the curve in terms of removal. If it isn’t removed quickly, it tends to grow.”
Goudreault supervises a crew of inmates from the Correctional Alternative Center in Lawrence who volunteer for the work and, through good behavior, have earned the right to participate in this community service effort.
The crew travels in a Sheriff Department flatbed truck carrying a commercial pressure sprayer that washes away symbols painted on properties.
The crew uses a high-pressure spray of water mixed with environmentally safe baking soda to remove tags. Goudreault said the baking soda acts as an abrasive, while the water keeps dust in check.
Goudreault said his crew spent hours removing tags from the outside of an old abandoned gas station on the Bradford side of the Comeau Bridge, as well as tags that were on retaining walls along Railroad Avenue near the Skateland roller skating rink and a stretch of new metal guardrail that runs along Laurel Avenue.
“It was pretty recent tagging, from what I was told,” Goudreault said.
His crew of workers also made a stop at the public library, where they used the high-pressure spray to remove graffiti from a concrete staircase on the Summer Street side of the building, across from City Hall.
All communities in Essex County are eligible for the graffiti removal program, which is offered through Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins’ office.