UPPER WEST SIDE — A police officer is on a mission to curb graffiti in the neighborhood, hoping the addition of murals will help cut down on local vandalism.
NYPD Officer Jennifer Toro, who focuses on quality-of-life crimes at her 24th Precinct post, said she's seen a rise in the amount of graffiti in the precinct, which runs between West 86th to 110th streets.
"It says a lot about the community," she told residents at a recent precinct meeting. "If we let it get to a different level, it’s just not going to look good," she added.
Part of Toro's job involves tracking different "tags" used by graffiti writers or gang members trying to mark their turf, allowing her to make arrests for the illegal activity.
She also spends time pointing out graffiti to local merchants and letting them know about the Graffiti-Free NYC program, a free cleanup service offered to business owners.
Toro's also been known to take things into her own hands.
"I go out there myself and I’m painting and covering these things up," she said.
But as the weather warms up and the "itch" hits graffiti writers, Toro wants the community to step up and help her combat the problem.
Specifically, the officer is evaluating areas that have attracted graffiti in the past as possible sites for murals, which brighten up the community and make the walls feel less like a blank canvas, she said.
Two spots she's identified as potential mural sites include the side of a building on the north side of West 91st Street just east of Columbus Avenue, and a wall along West 107th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues.
Toro can and has in the past enlisted the help of the precinct's Explorers — a team of high schoolers interested in pursuing police work as a career — to paint over graffiti, but she would love other groups and block associations to team up with her.
She's also looking for paint donations to help kick-start the process.
For example, a group restoring a mural along a wall on West 92nd Street at Broadway this past summer used 40 gallons of paint for that project alone.
"I would love for people to share ideas for what they’d like," and for her team and others to not just clean up a spot, but to "paint something nice," she said.