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Three men on mission to keep Wyandotte County graffiti-free

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- There's a group in Wyandotte County that’s working to clean up graffiti in troubled spots.

Operation Brightside started as a nonprofit organization in 1988. In the early 2000s, it became part of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and has since completed more than 20,000 projects.

“It’s important to get it cleaned up right away because that discourages it from coming back, and it just helps to keep the neighborhoods cleaner,” said Kirk Suther, the program director for the organization.

The organization, consisting of three men who work part-time four days a week, receives tips from police departments, code enforcement and, most importantly, community members.

“We like to have the community helping by identifying some of the sites that get hit with graffiti, so we can go out and start cleaning it up,” Suther said.

Suther estimates the organization, which also works on beautification projects, completes about a thousand of graffiti cleanups every year, and their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.

Paul Soptick lives in one of the neighborhoods Operation Brightside was in Thursday.

“We’ve got a number of gangs in the city unfortunately, and when they go to war with each other, the way they talk to each other is through graffiti,” Soptick said.

The KCK native has reported thousands of tagged properties to the organization over the years.

“It’s so important to get it off because then you’re disrupting the communication line of the little thugs that put it up there,” Soptick said.

Suther admits the job can be frustrating at times, especially when taggers repeatedly target a property.

“Some properties will get tagged quite often and some they might tag and not come back,” Suther said.

Still, the group is committed to keeping Wyandotte County graffiti-free.

“We’re committed for the long-term to do whatever it takes to work our way through it,” Suther said. “We’ll wear them down before they wear us down.”

Operation Brightside does not charge property owners a cleanup fee. If you would like them to come to your neighborhood, call 311 or click here.

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