HAMMONTON — Micky Doto is a relatively recent Hammonton transplant, but it didn’t take him long to see the writing on the walls.
Seriously. He noticed graffiti all over town.
“It isn’t Camden,” he said, but he saw enough spray paint on buildings and signs that he felt something had to be done before it became a more common problem.
So he reached out to the local Rotary Club, the police department and the rest of the community for help, and this weekend he plans to lead a few dozen volunteers to reverse the town’s vandalism.
“I just want to see it be a better place overall,” said Doto, 28, who moved to Bellevue Avenue from Little Egg Harbor Township in 2005.
The cleanup has already started.
Earlier this month, Hammonton police arrested and charged four men and a juvenile who they allege did most of the recent spray painting in town.
Hammonton residents John Bakuckas, 20, and Paul Benedetti, Anthony Guerere Jr. and Damian McLaughlin, all 19, face several charges of criminal mischief each.
Officer Joseph Maimone, who has worked with Doto on the project, said the timing of the arrests was coincidental.
“But I think what spawned his idea was their tagging,” he added, “because they’ve been doing a number on the town.”
Doto said he started thinking about the issue a year ago. He would walk his dog, Hank, around the town’s side streets and see defaced businesses, homes, speed-limit markers and stop signs.
According to his count, there were nearly 20 “tags” on homes and hundreds on businesses.
He owns a property management company — B&M Property Group — so he already had an idea of how to fix the issue.
As a Rotary Club member, he talked to the service organization first.
“For a relatively new member, he really shook up the club on it,” said Bill Donahue, secretary and past president of the local club.
In March, Doto went to a Hammonton Town Council meeting to present his plan, receiving an ovation from the audience and some pats on the back on his way out.
Then he went to local businesses, handing out forms for them to sign that would permit volunteers to clean up their graffiti, or information sheets if the owners wanted to do it themselves.
This weekend, volunteers will meet at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in front of Town Hall to finish the job, using paint supplies donated by Lynkris Pro Hardware on Bellevue Avenue.
Doto even received some help from the recently arrested graffiti vandals, who have already cleaned up several of their own tags, and who said they plan to participate in this weekend’s clean-up effort.
“We want to mentor these guys and teach them they should want to better the place you live, not make it worse,” he said.
Doto said Hammonton luckily lacks the crime levels of urban inner cities, but even a little crime can lead to more.
Maimone agreed, citing the “broken windows theory” that properly maintaining properties would discourage further — and more serious — crime because it would inspire a sense of order.
He called it having a “pride of place.”
“You say, ‘That guy cares about his building, I’m not going to mess with it anymore,’” Maimone said.
For that reason, Doto hopes to turn this weekend’s cleanup into a monthly event.
“I think the problem will be an overabundance of volunteers, which will be fine,” he said. “We’ll just clean up litter on Main Street.”
Contact Lee Procida:
If you go
The graffiti cleanup initiative is meeting at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in front of Town Hall at 75 Academy Drive, Hammonton. Volunteers will be given supplies and locations to clean.