By Mike Kinney
A Richmond police captain is encouraging residents near the 23rd street corridor to look out for vandals who have been tagging Veterans Memorial Hall at 968 23rd St.
The vandals are frustrating efforts by residents and volunteers who are working to clean up and improve the area. And they are baffling to people who wonder why anyone would tag a hall serving veterans.
Art Hunter, president of Veterans Memorial Hall, said graffiti vandals came to the east side of the building last week and tagged it with 15-foot-tall lettering.
“This has been occurring between midnight and 3 AM,’ police Capt. Al Walle said in a Facebook post. “One suspect usually stands on the corner as a lookout while the second suspect tags the building. The suspects are usually wearing dark hooded sweat jackets and arrive in a late model gold or champagne color Honda (or similar type 4-door vehicle) with stock wheels. The vehicle usually parks east of 23rd Street in the darkest part of the street. The suspects are using a fire extinguisher type paint gun and are gone within seconds.”
Walle encourages residents to call police if they witness this activity.
Hunter said the City of Richmond Public Works Division comes out on a semi-monthly basis and paints over the graffiti and removes debris from illegal dumping along the 23rd Street by the Veterans Hall.
When we visited Wednesday, a large Richmond Public Works truck was busy picking up garbage. The city worker pointed us to a a sign on the building that reads: “This building serves our veterans and our public! Help keep it safe and clean!”
Diego Garcia, a community advocate for the 23rd street corridor and owner of Leftside Printing, located directly across the street from the Veterans Building, said local business owners, the city and the Belding-Woods and North & East neighborhoods are working together to deal with the crime issues, which includes rampant prostitution and drug dealing.
The recent graffiti hasn’t thwarted an effort by a group of community volunteers that have teamed with the nonprofit Urban Transformation in recent years to make the corridor safer and more vibrant. One of the more recent beautification projects has been the ongoing cleanup and rehabilitation of an alley between 22nd and 23rd streets and Grant and Burbeck avenues.
The vandals haven’t slowed those forces of good: On Saturday, Feb. 17, volunteers are set to meet at Portumex restaurant for the second phase of the alley beautification project, which is part of a greater effort that includes revitalizing a one-block radius in the area. See the flyer below for information on the Feb. 17 volunteer effort.