- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday swapped his trademark bow tie and business suit for work boots, coveralls and gloves, and joined efforts to clean graffiti from the walls of a downtown alley.

“If you don’t take the graffiti off of the alleys and the walkways, not to mention the main streets, it sends the message that the community doesn’t care,” Mr. Williams said.

Responding directly to a constituent’s complaint, Mr. Williams helped remove about 20 square feet of blue, gray and black paint scrawled on the red brick rear walls and metal service doors of several businesses.

“Once the little crimes start going unnoticed, they mushroom into bigger crimes,” the mayor said when asked about why such behind-the-scenes matters require his personal attention.

Therese Keane, a Dupont Circle resident, called earlier this month to complain about the spray-painted doodles visible from her rear windows.

“It’s graffiti. It’s dirt on the walls and doors, and it shouldn’t be here,” Miss Keane said. “It also affects property values,” she added, reminding reporters that her neighborhood is undergoing historic preservation.

The complaint became one of 1,400 graffiti removal projects the D.C. Department of Public Works completes each month. About 250 of those jobs are on private property and require permission from the owner.

Miss Keane’s was the one-millionth call handled by the Mayor’s Citywide Call Center since 1999, prompting Mr. Williams to use resolution of the problem to recognize the work of both departments.

“By taking all the calls into one place, we’ve been able to track the response better and find out where the problems are and where solutions may lie,” Mr. Williams said.

Since it opened, the center’s 27 customer service specialists have handled 248,492 calls for heavy trash pickup; 85,166 calls for parking enforcement; and 40,691 pothole complaints. They also have handled thousands of abandoned vehicle and rat-control calls.

Mr. Williams also praised the work of the D.C. Department of Public Work’s graffiti removal team. He added that progress on handling major problems over the past six years has made it possible for the city personnel to spend more time on other issues.

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