Daniel Slocum, 14, paints over graffiti on the Bear Creek Greenway in Phoenix on Thursday. A crew from the Jackson County Juvenile Justice Center has been removing graffiti as a way of fulfilling community service time and keeping the area free of gang symbols. - Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Blanking out graffiti

Fourteen-year-old Daniel Slocum relishes the chance to leave the Juvenile Justice Center, even if it means spending a hot afternoon slapping paint onto a concrete wall.

Slocum is among a handful of juvenile offenders who earned a spot on a graffiti cleanup crew organized by the Medford Police Department.

The agency finds value in having teens who have made poor choices and ended up on the wrong side of the law give back to the community.

Slocum used to be part of the problem, and now says he is the solution.

"I used to spray paint walls," he said. "But I was more creative."

Slocum and the crews worked Friday to cover gang graffiti plastered along the bike path in Phoenix.

Taggers affiliated with the Sureño street gang covered the bottom of the overpass where Fern Valley Road shoots over the bike path with their call signs.

"It's nice to cover these stupid tags," Slocum said. "I just don't like gang graffiti."

The crew is supervised by Medford police Community Service Officer Todd Sales.

"This gives them a chance to put something back into the community," Sales said.

The department supplies Sales with a trailer full of painting equipment and sends him out to tackle graffiti as it pops up.

So far, the department has seen a drop in graffiti cases this year. Graffiti is classified as "vandalism" under the Medford police crime code. This could include other crimes, but the vast majority of vandalism cases involve graffiti, Medford police Chief Tim George said.

George said the painting crew worked at approximately 450 locations last year.

The majority of Medford's recent graffiti issues were the result of one tagger, who signed the name "SCROW" to his work.

"SCROW" turned out to be Kevin Ammerman, 19, of the 200 block of Mt. Echo Drive. Police believe he was responsible for hundreds of tags throughout Medford and White City.

"We are liking the fact that the public is reporting graffiti when they see it," George said. "We would ask that they continue this, so we can get gang graffiti covered up."

Sales said most of the materials are provided at a discount by various Medford businesses such as Rodda Paint on Court Street. The team is picked from teens who are lodged in the Juvenile Justice Center who are required to fulfill community service hours as part of their sentence.

Nelson Martinez, 16, who is serving time in detention for theft and assault, has worked several cleanups with the crew.

"It's good to get out here with Sales and it's better than sitting in the facility," Martinez said.

The crew made quick work of Friday's job, covering several feet of solid graffiti in little more than an hour.

The dip in graffiti cases pleases Sales, but he said there is still plenty of work to do.

"It's going to keep popping up and we're going to keep covering it up," Sales said. "The ones we bring onto the cleanup crew cooperate really well. We give them the chance to contribute and if they work hard we will keep them on until they fulfill their community service."

As the tags disappeared under coats of paint Friday, Sales offered encouraging words to the crew during a walk-through of the area.

"You guys are kicking it today," Sales said. "Check this out. Nice."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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