A Topeka police officer hopes to get volunteers to paint murals over graffiti that's been sprayed on several area buildings.
Lt. Joe Perry said his goal is to get artwork on locations that frequently have been "tagged" by graffiti artists, most of whom are gang members.
Perry has met with local leaders from various groups, including Safe Streets, Arts Connect and Downtown Topeka Inc. in recent weeks, and hopes to see the project started by the end of spring, The Topeka Capital Journal reported.
"Our fundamental belief is if we can bring art to the community, we'll get that buy-in, so that people will have a vested interest in keeping their neighborhoods safe and beautiful," Perry said.
Perry said there are various reasons for gangs to be involved in graffiti, among them identifying territory, sending messages or reflecting a struggle in a particular gang.
The buildings that are "tagged" require city code enforcement officers to apply what Perry said was an "ugly gray paint" over them, frequently using a soda blaster. But most graffiti artists won't paint over buildings with murals, he said.
Perry is also looking for funding, and has been writing grant proposals to businesses. Grants ranging from $150 to $10,000 are available.
Perry already has his eye on a building that, while not large, would serve as a source of pride for neighbors.
"I've got artists all over the place," Perry said. "Now, I just need a bucket of paint and a brush."