Graffiti fighters face setback after thieves nab materials

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The city's effort to eliminate graffiti has suffered a setback. Thieves recently broke into a garage where supplies for Kansas City's graffiti abatement program had been stored. It happened at Independence and Norton.

The goal of the program is to beautify buildings in the northeast that have been repeatedly tagged with graffiti. The city's Gateway Crimes Task Force started a year ago to get rid of graffiti by painting artistic murals on walls that had been defaced with taggings.

The Mattie Rhodes Center had been overseeing the painting of a mural at Independence and Norton. Supplies had been stored in a garage next door. But when two young artists recently arrived to continue working on the project, they discovered a garage door had been kicked in and about $1,100 worth of paint and other supplies stolen.

Thankfully, donors have replaced the stolen materials, or this fledgling program may have been in jeopardy.

"It was devastating to me," said Alicia Rhodes of the Mattie Rhodes Center. "I was a community muralist for 10 years and never had anything like this happen. So for the youth and the artists to come out and find that they didn't have materials, it was just a like a really bad thing that day."

The old Lexington Plumbing building, where a melting pot mural is being created, has been a frequent target for taggers. Among the items stolen was a power washer the group had rented to wash away graffiti before the new artwork started.

The donated replacements are no longer stored here and apprentices bring them in each day from a more secure location.

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