A day with the city’s graffiti removal team

Daisy Garcia Montoya
Editorial Assistant

Graffiti is everywhere: on highways, in parks and buildings. Every day Kansas City’s graffiti removal team, under the direction of the Parks and Recreation Department, put hours into upkeep and maintenance of Kansas City parks through graffiti removal.

The graffiti removal team consists of Willy Holmes, primarily with Christopher Hubbert helping him along. This two-man crew is responsible for removing graffiti at parks or other sites given to them, especially in the summertime when graffiti levels rise.

Holmes, who has been removing graffiti for seven years, said while there is no particular place where graffiti is more consistent, summer is always the busiest season when it comes to removal.

“They have all the time in the world,” Holmes said referring to the graffiti artists. “You have nothing else to do.”

Most recently, the Country Club Plaza became a hot spot for the graffiti removal team over the last few weeks as daily protests emerged against police brutality.

“It increased a lot,” Hubbert said. “Every day we sprayed graffiti away. We would clean it up, get it right, just to drive back down there and do it again the next day.”

Still, Hubbert said that he wasn’t completely against graffiti being used at protests.

“Personally, it depends on what graffiti is,” Hubbert said. “What it says, what it is. Some graffiti is actually art.

On a normal day-to-day basis, the crew starts its day at 7 a.m., finishing at 3:30 p.m., after going to multiple sites.

“The neighborhood association usually calls the City and tells them there’s graffiti that needs to be removed,” Holmes said.

After residents or a neighborhood association calls the KCMO 311 Service Request to report graffiti, it is given to the graffiti removal crew supervisor and assigned to the crew. Requests are usually fulfilled rapidly, but some locations require more than one visit due to how penetrated the paint is.
Although color has little to no effect on how easy graffiti can be removed, the type of paint that is used does. Spray paint is fairly easy to wash off, but when a heavier paint is used, the time and chemicals double.

During the removal process, general graffiti removal chemicals are sprayed around the area. After the area has been sprayed, the chemicals sit for a few minutes to allow maximum absorption. Next, the crew uses a power washer that sprays hot water to put pressure on the area to further remove the remaining paint.

Another factor that affects the difficulty of the removal is the surface of where graffiti is done.

“When the surface is smooth, the paint will be easier to take off,” Holmes said. “It takes more time with rock or rough surfaces.”

The texture of the surface and the type of paint used impacts how long it will take to come off and if multiple sites to the area will be necessary. The graffiti removal team works year-round to remove graffiti in the communities.

To report graffiti and have it removed, call the KCMO 311 Service Request.

Watch Daisy’s day with the graffiti removal team here.

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