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Painting The Town Clean

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"They'll be back," Nicole Dean said, referring to the vandals as she surveyed the teens whitewashing the one-story brick wall near Glen Oaks Village. Dean, a community affairs officer with the 105th, helped supervise the cleanup by eight members of the precinct's Explorers Club, a program that introduces 14- to 20-year-olds to careers in law enforcement.

For part of their community service, the group was asked to clean up the wall at 263rd Street and Union Turnpike, a spot covered with blue, black and orange bubble letters.

Creators of graffiti often call it art, but homeowners are more likely to deem it an eyesore and a nuisance. Police from the 105th Precinct, which stretches from Glen Oaks in the north along the Nassau border south to Brookville, said noise and graffiti were the two major quality-of-life complaints in their patrol area.

Early last Thursday morning, an officer from the 105th spotted two men spray painting graffiti at the intersection of the Cross Island Parkway and Jamaica Avenue, Dean said. The two men, 23 and 27, were found with spray paint and gloves and have been charged with making graffiti and criminal mischief.

"As the graffiti goes, so does the rest of the command in terms of quality of life," Deputy Inspector Thomas Manzolillo, the new head of the 105th Precinct, said at the precinct May 5.

To halt the vandalism, officers from the anti-crime team remind store managers not to sell spray paint to minors, and for several weeks they monitor sites that have been cleaned.

"Some of these individuals are creatures of habit," Manzolillo said. The precinct also gives youth an outlet with its sponsorship of athletic leagues, its Auxiliary Program for those over 18 and the Explorers Club.

The graffiti the Explorers painted over Saturday had been there for at least a year, residents said. "They do it in the middle of the night," said Marie McDonegh, a resident of Glen Oaks Village. "They're fast."

Dean said she expected the wall would soon be covered once more with graffiti, and she hoped the maintenance crew at Glen Oaks Village would keep repainting it.

"Sooner or later they'll stop," Dean said of the vandals. "Maybe we caught the two guys who did it."

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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