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TAKING ACCOUNT OF GRAFFITI: ONE CITY'S COSTS

Public entities are devoting tens of thousands of dollars to combat graffiti. Here's how the crime is taking a toll on the resources of one city - Sandy.

Sandy began tracking graffiti incidents in August 1992. It took 27 graffiti reports during the remaining five months of the year, according to Scott Earle, parks superintendent.In 1993, graffiti incidents jumped to 472. The next year, 1994, was even worse: The city recorded 601 reports of graffiti. To date, Sandy has received 140 graffiti reports, slightly fewer than it had at this time in 1994.

Sandy began pouring money into the fight against graffiti as part of its 1993-94 budget. Where did the money go?

- $4,800 to retrofit and service a "retired" truck

- $10,600 to buy graffiti removal equipment, including a compressor and sand blaster

- $2,000 to maintain the graffiti-removal equipment

- $3,120 to buy silica sand for the blaster and other supplies

- $19,000 to coat park pavilions with anti-graffiti sealant

- $3,500 for motion sensitive lights in city parks

1993-94 total: $43,020

Sandy devoted even more money to the battle in fiscal 1994-95:

- $27,127 in salary and benefits to hire a person to clean graffiti; the individual spends about 3 1/2 days a week on graffiti removal and works on parks projects the rest of the time

- $600 to train the employee and buy him uniforms

- $6,420 for graffiti removal chemicals, silica sand and other supplies

- $10,200 to buy a soda blasting machine

- $3,200 to buy soda for the machine

1994-95 total: $47,547

In addition to ongoing funds set aside to wipe out graffiti, the city's proposed 1995-96 budget, unveiled Tuesday night, includes a new allotment of $1,170 to cover cleanup at local businesses.

Another way to look at it: In the past two years Sandy has spent more than $90,000 to clean up graffiti. That money could have bought:

- a computerized system for $70,000 to control watering at city parks, which conserves water and thus tax dollars

- 450 trees for city parks and along streets, at $200 per tree

- three children's play lots at $30,000 each

- a new park pavilion ($100,000)

- a new tennis court for a city park ($60,000)