Guest Blogger: Commander Jason Lyons, Castle Rock, Colorado, Police Department
Can Badges, Brushes, and Paint Change History?
Castle Rock, Colorado, Police Department’s (CRPD) Art around the Rock program proved the answer to that question is yes. The project came to fruition after Officer Seth Morrissey spent the summer of 2013 on the Castle Rock Police Bike Unit. He and his partner rode the Castle Rock trails system every day as part of their daily duties and noticed that some of the trails and overpasses had many years of unaddressed graffiti. That summer they took multiple reports of graffiti type vandalism along the trails and knew something had to be done. Later that year, the CRPD hosted a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) course, which Morrissey attended. One of the main points discussed in the course was the benefit of designing an area which encourages people to come and spend some time. If you can bring people to an area where individuals do not normally frequent; it will increase the amount of “eyes” on the area and lessen the chances that crime will occur.
In 2014, Morrissey transferred to the department’s Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving Unit and put his CPTED training to work, focusing on cutting down on the increasing graffiti problem. Initially a reactive response to an ongoing criminal concern, Community Policing officers initiated the mural project, which came to be known as“Art around the Rock”. Officers looked at 18 areas that were “tagged” regularly and came up with a goal to complete three murals that summer. Partnering with local artists, organizations, businesses, and other Town of Castle Rock departments, the first mural began in May 2014. By the time the Colorado winter began, Community Policing officers had orchestrated the work and completion of 15 murals throughout Castle Rock. The program was so successful, a proactive response is underway to paint murals in areas not yet subjected to graffiti.
Murals Are Done, Now What?
One of the main concerns while the murals were being painted was “what if they get tagged”? Morrissey and his partner Officer Kevin Torrens utilized trail cameras to keep an eye on the murals until an “anti-graffiti” coating could be applied. What they found was a major increase in pedestrian traffic in the area and citizens spending time in front of the murals. Some even had picnics. The idea of creating an environment where people would come and spend time worked… even better than expected.
“Are My Tax Dollars Being Used On This Project”?
Believe it or not, officers heard that question from only one citizen, but that was the only citizen complaint. The Town of Castle Rock’s Facebook page was filled with positive comments about the project. Citizens were posting “selfies” of themselves in front of the different murals. One of the favorites was painted by Artist Janene DiRico-Cable and titled “American Heroes”. It features a 25 foot tall American Flag with 18 foot tall silhouettes of a police officer, firefighter and soldier. Along the pillars that hold up the bridge that it is painted under are 8 foot tall silhouettes of all branches of the Armed Services.
Not a single tax dollar was spent on the mural project. Collaborating with local businesses, more than 500 gallons of paint were donated by organizations and corporations.
Documenting the Process.
Fifteen murals were painted during the summer of 2014, with two more due for completion this summer. The program has been successful in eliminating acts of graffiti in areas where murals have been painted. The Town of Castle Rock still experiences the occasional act of graffiti related vandalism, but not a single incident where a mural has been designed. The use of our trail system has increased substantially and the overall quality-of-life for those who use the system has increased immeasurably.
The Community Policing officers documented the project from the beginning. Below are some before and after shots. The Town of Castle Rock designed an interactive map which shows the locations of each mural, along with photos and a description.
Questions or comments can be directed to Seth Morrissey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-663-6153.