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Algona residents taking back their streets

Algona’s Larisa Redka and her son, Alex, apply a fresh coat of paint to a fire hydrant during a citizens’ neighborhood cleanup effort last Saturday. ‘We didn’t go last time because I was sick,” Larisa said. “Alex wanted to go (this time). He was excited about it.’ - Chelsea Krotzer/Reporter
Algona’s Larisa Redka and her son, Alex, apply a fresh coat of paint to a fire hydrant during a citizens’ neighborhood cleanup effort last Saturday. ‘We didn’t go last time because I was sick,” Larisa said. “Alex wanted to go (this time). He was excited about it.’
— image credit: Chelsea Krotzer/Reporter

Police, citizens, others join forces to combat graffiti, beautify areas

Algona residents are tired of being tagged and now are focused on taking back their neighborhoods.

Fences, buildings and fire hydrants throughout the town have fallen prey to the spray paint of misguided teenagers.

“It was trashed,” said Sgt. Lee Gaskill of the Algona Police Department. “These kids have been having a heyday here for a long time.”

The Algona City Council plans to clean up different parts of town on the first Saturday of every month.

Last Saturday, the focus was on Chicago Avenue and Fourth Avenue. Both sites had an abundance of graffiti on fences.

“I live here in town and got tired of the mess,” said Ed Britz, city councilmember. “I just figured that something needs to be done to help. If we can get enough people involved, we could make a difference.”

A new fence was put in near Chicago Avenue behind to block a footpath that Gaskill believed allowed such a high degree of tagging.

“Children see it every day,” Gaskill said. “We don’t want it to be a sense of normality. We don’t want them to do it in the future.”

Volunteers cut away brush and blackberry bushes, opening up the area to discourage more tagging. According to Gaskill, kids would hide in the brushed area to drink, do drugs and tag the fences.

Elissa Dean, Algona resident and wife of councilmember Tim Dean, found that there was more than just graffiti dirtying up their streets.

“I found a tire and a muffler in the ditch,” Dean said. “The last time I found a bag full of dirty diapers.”

The resident volunteers made an earlier effort on April 5. This time they teamed up with Gaskill, who also has begun block watch programs.

Block watch captain Randall Parten was appointed to help Gaskill, who often gets called away to assist in backup.

The block watch captain will be available at all times.

The combined effort of police and the city council has changed the views of some Algona residents.

“I was always getting angry and mad. The police would never be here when you needed them,” said Robbie Dye, a Chicago Avenue resident. “Lee asked me to be part of the solution to the problem. Since they’ve done this, the crime has gone down. The police have really stepped up to the plate.”

Volunteers involved weren’t just residents, but also juveniles serving their community service hours.

“It’s cool, it’s helping the community,” said one boy. “I’m sure I will actually get my community service progress done.”

A number of local businesses donated to the cleanup cause. Paint and other tools used by the residential cleanup crew were donated by Lowe’s Hardware. Their shirts, as well as various gift cards from Emerald City Smoothie and other local businesses, also were donated.

Those interested in participating in the “take back your neighborhood” efforts, should contact Algona City Hall at 253-833-2897 or visit their Web site at cityofalgona.com.

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