Mattituck man hopes to form citizen corps of graffiti-busters

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | George Lomaga wants to form a citizens' group to clean up graffiti throughout the town. Beside him is a utility box on Breakwater Road in Mattituck that was sprayed by vandals a couple of months ago.

Graffiti-making is on the rise in Southold Town, and some people are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.

Southold police recently reported a 64 percent increase in graffiti incidents in 2011, with 41 incidents reported, up from 25 in 2010 and 20 in 2009.

Town Board members have considered installing video cameras at graffiti hot spots, and one Mattituck resident has offered to form a citizens’ group to combat the spray-painted menace throughout town.

George Lomaga, president of the Captain Kidd Drive Property Owners Association, has witnessed a large increase in graffiti in his Mattituck neighborhood this year.

“If you leave it, they’ll just do it more,” he said on a recent tour of his quiet neighborhood not far from Long Island Sound.

He said he first noticed large graffiti tags, the name given to what the sprayers consider art, in bright purple and orange at the quiet end of Sound Beach Drive during the summer. He pointed to a boarded-up house next door to the road end.

“I was afraid they’d start spraying the houses,” he said.

Mr. Lomaga has also seen the tags on stop signs on nearby Ruth Road, and said he was told by a farm worker that they’re MS-13 gang signs. One of the vandalized signs was recently replaced, but the new sign was quickly defaced. A Verizon phone box on Cox Neck Road was also painted in recent months.

Soundfront residents in Southold have also reported an outbreak of graffiti there, and Supervisor Scott Russell said he was dismayed by the recent graffiti that appeared on the Long Island Rail Road trestle above Route 25 in Mattituck.

“Whoever did this is not cool,” he said at a Town Board work session. “You’re an idiot with a spray can.”

Greenport Village has also faced a good deal of graffiti in the past year, on downtown street signs and at the skate park on Moores Lane.

Mr. Lomaga, an earth and space science professor at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead, said he envisions a group of retirees and semi-retirees from each hamlet, each taking responsibility for cleaning up graffiti in their community.

He said he’d like some guidance from the town on the legalities of painting over graffiti on public or semi-public property, as well as advice on what kind of solvents his group might be able to use.

“I would like to get the town to be supportive of it,” he said. “I want to make sure it’s legal to do something like that.”

Town attorney Martin Finnegan said his office has not been asked to look into the issue.

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