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 LOS ANGELES, Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The MTA is launching a three- pronged, $7 million program designed to halt the spread of graffiti vandalism on its buses. The plan combines escalated bus cleaning procedures and the use of innovative graffiti-resistant materials with increased law enforcement action and strong community involvement.
 The Enhanced Graffiti Abatement Program follows a successful six-month pilot "Zero Tolerance" program that began last January on four downtown bus lines totaling 150 buses operating out of MTA Division One.
 The Zero Tolerance effort now has been expanded to cover a total of some 400 buses, including 155 on central Los Angeles bus lines and approximately 100 buses serving Long Beach. The anti-graffiti program will be extended next to MTA Division 5, which operates about 200 buses on lines in South-Central Los Angeles.
 "The pilot program showed that our new strategy, emphasizing zero tolerance, law enforcement action and community involvement, is highly effective in keeping MTA buses graffiti-free," said MTA Board Member Antonio Villaraigosa. "By June 1994, the MTA plans to provide graffiti-free service on more than 1,500 buses -- almost 70 percent of the active fleet."
 Villaraigosa, the board member who initiated the Zero Tolerance program, also announced the opening of a new toll-free 800 telephone number -- 800-STOP-TAG -- the public can call to report acts of graffiti vandalism. The reports will assist MTA Transit Police in tracking graffiti vandals, and their activities and may lead to some arrests, he said.
 "We believe the $7 million allocated by the board for this program is an investment that eventually will reduce our bottom-line expenditures on graffiti," said Franklin E. White, MTA chief executive officer.
 The major component of the graffiti abatement plan is the Zero Tolerance effort itself. Every bus rolling out for its assignment each morning leaves the division yard graffiti-free. A bus that is "tagged" during its route is cleaned within one round trip.
 This part of the program is intended to prevent graffiti and reduce damage to buses by more frequent cleaning and the use of innovative graffiti-resistant materials.
 A second important element is community outreach and education. In an effort to win community support of the graffiti abatement program, MTA staff and employee volunteers have led neighborhood cleanup events at bus shelters and have made scores of anti-graffiti presentations.
 MTA employees have carried their message to more than 50,000 students and teachers, more than 1,500 civic organization members, as well as to over 500 business owners in neighborhoods along the Zero Tolerance bus routes.
 "My vision for the MTA's graffiti abatement program places it at the center of a county-wide effort to build an anti-graffiti coalition," said Villaraigosa. "Many organizations, community groups and individuals working together to overcome graffiti ... a problem we can address through cooperation with one another and with a genuine concern for our neighborhoods and our cities."
 Vital also to the success of the MTA program is the law enforcement element, which includes intensified surveillance and tracking of graffiti vandals, arrests and citations by MTA Transit Police. A juvenile diversion program operated in conjunction with the County Probation Department and the courts seeks to find constructive alternatives to jail time for youngsters apprehended on criminal charges. This may include community service time cleaning graffiti off buses and MTA facilities.
 "The tide of graffiti that has swept over our communities has been extremely costly," White said. "It also has caused incalculable damage to the confidence our riders have had in the mass transit system and to the morale of MTA employees. With this new graffiti abatement program, I am confident we can make great inroads in the problem."
 The MTA Welcomes the Pupils from "Beautiful Berendo"
 Assisting the MTA with the announcement of the new graffiti abatement program today are pupils from Berendo Middle School in Los Angeles.
 The school is called "Beautiful Berendo," according to Principal Cecilia M. Durand, because staff, pupils and their families have worked hard to eliminate graffiti from the all-white buildings and have joined in a program to keep school grounds in top condition.
 Berendo Middle School pupils also have participated in the MTA's graffiti abatement program.
 -0- 9/20/93
 /CONTACT: Bill Heard or Jim Smart, MTA, 213-972-4400/

CO: Metropolitan Transportation Authority ST: California IN: SU:

GK-LS -- LA029 -- 3740 09/20/93 14:04 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 20, 1993

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