Rehabbing graffiti taggers: 32nd Ward Alderman Waguespack scores 3 for 3 in the success column


Lily tackles an overwhelming amount of tagging on Milwaukee Ave.

Mired in fighting off and cleaning up graffiti along the streets, on buildings and in alleys in the 32nd Ward, Alderman Scott Waguespack decided to take on "rehabbing" offenders convicted of graffiti crimes in the 32nd.

Last year, he talked with the States Attorney’s office in a graffiti case and recommended that they consider specifying community service hours be spent removing graffiti.  The idea being "You mess it up….You clean it up."

The first person assigned in June 2011 was an 18-year-old young lady. We'll call her Lily. "I waited so long to do my hours that I had to do it in like two weeks and it was cold out…I don't know why I waited so long, it just happened." Lily squeezed 35 hours of service into two weeks. Given instructions and materials


Steve Jensen paints out bike rack

by Steve Jensen, who was the 32nd Ward volunteer assigned to supervise the assignment, Lily received an intense course in cleaning up posts, bike racks, buildings and alleys. "She really worked her butt off," said Jensen. And, she has a different view not only of her actions but the reality of keeping the area clean.

"The night we ended up getting picked up, I just wanted to go home. I'd been working at Heat by Flash Taco (Damen by Milwaukee and North), they close really late. My boyfriend picked me up and we were walking (up Milwaukee) to McDonalds (Western, Armitage and Milwaukee) for breakfast. He started tagging…I said, 'No don't do that.' Nobody was around, but I thought someone was hiding undercover.

"He put the marker in my bag when I went into McDonalds and he was smoking a cigarette outside. The plumber guy (a Milwaukee Ave. property and business owner) came in and called me a b____," she said with the sound and look of someone who still couldn't believe that had happened. "He told the police that I'd written all over his wall. Really I didn't. Ink was all over my boyfriend's hands but I had none on mine. But the marker was in my bag so I guess that is why I was arrested.


Working with customer and staff is Lily, not from where she removed graffiti

"Some taggers want to be known and looked up to in the graffiti world. Tagging gives some a way to get away (mentally and emotionally) from whatever they are going through…they feel powerful. Some use it for gang stuff but most do it as art, except for VTC. 

"Lily," I asked, "If a tagger owned property, how would they feel if somebody messed up their property?"

 "I know, but so many of them are young, they don't think about that. There are older graffiti people and they don't do  properties … they'll do big buildings and all over the inside of abandoned buildings. They can like chill, spray paint and stuff and listen to music. There are permission walls too, where it is ok to do tagging or graffiti art."

"Did you learn anything from this experience?"


Brian is on the left and Mike on the right

"I did, but I don't think that others who are into graffiti would stop after doing community service.  Graffiti is like an obsession. Once they get into it, they just can't stop."

"I learned that people have to pay more to  clean the buildings around here.. graffiti is probably partly why our  taxes are so high. When there is a tag, there will be more and it doesn't look good. People thanked me when they saw I was cleaning up stuff.


Brian is completing one of the poles in the intersection of Milwaukee, Western and Armitage

"I realized that it (getting arrested) could effect my career. When I started applying for jobs, they wouldn't take me because I still had to do my court date. I'm not going there again! I may work on permission walls but I'm more into drawing."

To others she suggests "think about your future first." In March 2012, Lily started working at Forever Yogurt on North Ave. where she is a supervisor. After completing her second year at Harold Washington, she plans to attend Roosevelt or the University of Illinois Chicago. Her goal is to work with children through social work or as a teacher.

With one success on the books, Waguespack went to the State's Attorney when two brothers were charged. Now his successes are numbering three.

Brian and  Mike Wade are a construction contractor and messenger respectively.  Bored, looking for something to do, they were illegally on the Bloomingdale trail during the spring.  Not totally sober, they decided to "decorate" property along the trail.

"Nothing we did was beautiful or helped the community," said the Bucktown and Roscoe Village residents who are working off 60 hours of public service. Sounding a bit like National Public Radio's Tom and Ray Magliozzi, Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, the Wade brothers agreed, "Don't do stupid stuff like my brother!"

"Lesson learned…there is no reason we need to be out here, we need to, for sure, find other avenues to express our artistic tendencies," said Brian.


Scott Waguespack has been dealing with graffiti for years

"People come up and say everything looks a lot better cleaned up instead of having flyers and stickers all over the poles.  The streets look better," said Mike as he pointed out that all the posts on the intersections of Milwaukee, Western and Armitage were a solid black.

"I didn't know it wasn't legal to post flyers and stickers on poles.  I felt badly that I had to take down a few garage sale signs for today but what are the chances someone would come back and take it down themselves," commented Brian.

"Not only does this program give the offenders a chance to understand the difference keeping a neighborhood clean makes. It gives them first hand knowledge of how time consuming it is. And, it gives us additional hands to help make clean-up an efficient  process," said Jensen whose mantra is "A clean neighborhood is a safe neighborhood."



Readers- here's an idea:stop

Readers- here's an idea: stop voting for your local alder-bum. Scott Waguespack sets the bar very high for the others to follow and most Aldermen are in the game to LINE THEIR POCKETS. Re-elect Waguespack next time and keep the real progressives growing!

Ward change

The ward changes are a political nightmare. We are losing Ald Waguespack and I am not happy. This graffiti issue is another further indication that we need him and people like Steve and other neighbors picking up where Mayor Rahm and his friends have failed.

I live in Joe Moreno's ward

I live in Joe Moreno's ward and I have to say from top to bottom its a complete DUMP. I wish we had people like this in my community!!

We need more results like

We need more results like these two cases. I went to court as a court advocate on both these cases and we never know which way the state'ss attorney will go. It was great having Scott & Steve in court knowing that they have things that are much more important to do. It surely impressed the state's attorney having the alderman in court.

If I were an Alderman I'd

If I were an Alderman I'd hire Steve Jensen! After all I've read about him he really gets results.

Garbage Too

I know from experience how crummy it is to clean-up after these criminals and understand that it is difficult it is to catch them in the act. I am happy that Lily has seen the error of her ways but wonder how long that might last? Spending a couple of days in Cook County jail (general population) might help them realize that they are criminals plus re-inforce that it is just as wrong as stealing or any other crime.

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