Check out how some Rapid City college students got out of the classroom to work with local law enforcement officials

Students Hard At Work Painting Over Graffiti Tags On The Back Of A BuildingRAPID CITY,S.D. – Unless it is found in Rapid City’s Art Alley, graffiti is considered to be vandalism. In the state of South Dakota, vandalism and intentional damage to property can be anywhere from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 2 felony depending on the damage costs. In a special partnership, the Rapid City Police Department and college students came together to help remove some of the tags.

How did the students get involved?

Each of the 15 students out with RCPD Thursday morning got involved because of their Criminal Justice majors. However, some students like second-year Criminal Justice student Julius Morris found personal ties in their work. “My goal is to be a deputy for the sheriff’s office and I definitely want to be here for the community,” he explained. “I want to watch it grow and just prosper, and so it definitely is a big deal to me.”

How did the Graffiti Strike Force begin?

Chris DeGroote worked with the Rapid City Police Department for 25 years before he retired. However, he only stayed retired for four years before Police Chief Don Hedrick contacted him about coming back to the department for the program. Thursday marked their first big day of work in the community, putting focus on some locations in Northern Rapid City that included the Maverik’Gas Station and the former Shopko building along Haines Avenue. “Most people can’t tell the difference between gang graffiti and tagger graffiti. And it’s just it’s just an eyesore for everybody.”

When does the police department paint over graffiti tags?

The days that DeGroote and the police department paint are weather-dependent. He explains that anything below 30 degrees Fahrenheit is unsuitable for the paint. DeGroote also has a pressure washer for removing tags on unpainted surfaces like sidewalks. However, even the rainy conditions from the morning he and the students got to work could not stop them.

Why is this important for students?

The idea came from the director of the school’s criminal justice program, serving initially part of a volunteer requirement for students. According to the Criminal Justice Program Director for Western Dakota Tech Peter Ragnone, students also help out at events like the Festival of Lights and bowling events with the Special Olympics. The projects allow for students to engage in curriculum that just cannot be taught in a classroom setting.

“Public service has been a time honored tradition in Rapid City, particularly with the Rapid City Police Department,” he said. “And we partner with them and all other law enforcement agencies and in the hopes of community betterment.”

If you have graffiti tags on your property or know of any in the Rapid City area, Chris DeGroote advises on contacting the Rapid City Police Department at (605) 394-4131 and letting them know to get a message to him. Residents and organizations interested in helping eradicate graffiti around town are also welcome to call the number and let the department know of their interest.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Culture and Art, ConnectCenter1-Events, Local News, South Dakota News