Lewis Griswold

Gang graffiti is nasty stuff, and the new lieutenant at the sheriff’s substation wants to wipe it out

Lt. Gabriel Macias, the new commander of the Cutler-Orosi sheriff’s substation in Tulare County, surveyed the towns and saw that the time had come to do something about all the gang graffiti.

“I come in with the attitude, let’s improve our communities,” Macias said.

Last week, a crew led by a deputy washed off or painted over graffiti at 50 places in the two communities in the southern San Joaquin Valley, where gang activity is prevalent.

Residents said they welcome the cleanup activity.

“I’m glad they came here,” said field worker Rafael Vargas, a 15-year-resident of Cutler, as the crew sprayed paint over the graffiti on the dumpster in front of his home.

Sara Elena Santibanez, a two-year resident of Cutler, said the alley behind her home gets tagged about every other day.

“They just drop their trash, too,” she said.

Macias knows the scene. He grew up in Lindsay as the son of immigrants from Mexico and is fully bilingual in English and Spanish. Previously, he was in charge of the SWAT team.

Most graffiti in Cutler-Orosi is gang-related, he said. School administrators who he met on his rounds while getting to know the community talked to him about the gang graffiti, he said.

The cleanup will not be a one-time thing, he said.

“My goal is to just stay on it,” he said. “We’ll keep coming back when we get a break. I understand they’ll tag again.”

The weather last week was perfect for the task of cleaning up and painting over – not too hot.

Deputy Christopher George, a school resource officer, collected buckets of paint donated by the Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District.

The sheriff’s department already owns a cargo trailer outfitted with cleaning equipment and painting gear, including a compressor.

George asked Explorers Daniel Luna and Jonathan Ash to volunteer, and they all went to work.

With community-based officer Marcel Campos at the wheel, they drove the alleyways and streets and took turns spraying over all the graffiti they could find.

“We will make the difference,” Macias said.

Lots of lights

The Candy Cane Lane parade, a Visalia institution for 71 years, will be held Monday night in downtown Visalia.

But at 5 p.m., two hours before the parade starts, thousands of mini-lights on Main Street trees will be illuminated for the first time.

The Downtown Visalia Property Owners Association wrapped 48 trees with LED mini lights – 38,500 little white lights. About eight to 10 trees per block between West and Garden streets are wrapped this way.

“This project is designed to bring added beauty and illumination to the core of downtown,” said Myron Sheklian, the association’s operations chairman.

Volunteers installed overhead power cords to bring electricity to the lights, and Mike Fistolera of Fistolera Construction lent one of his hydraulic booms and an employee to operate it. Hired contractors finished the wrapping job.

The crew did a test illumination and took photos of it, but Monday is the big reveal.\

Highway 155 cleanup

The Kern River Ranger District is working with the California Department of Transportation and Southern California Edison to remove dead and dying trees along Highway 155 between Wofford Heights and Glennville in Kern County.

Caltrans will have contract fallers removing the trees and haul them to processing sites on the forest for chipping and sorting.

A portion of the chipped wood will be spread along areas within the Cedar Fire perimeter to reduce the potential for erosion. The project should begin this month.

Also, logging trucks will haul out some of the trees to be milled or processed for disposal. Drivers should expect minor delays.

The district is working with Edison to cut down trees threatening electrical lines in Alta Sierra. Detours are possible.

Lewis Griswold covers the news of the South Valley for The Bee: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold