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DALLAS - The City of Dallas spends about $750,000 per year combating graffiti. City crews last year painted over more than 5,700 cases. After school programs may be the key to keeping the city graffiti-free.

Once school lets out many students hit the steps and head for home but not all.

More than 100,000 children in Dallas are unsupervised everyday after school. Dallas City Council member Delia Jassocautions that causes big problems in her Oak Cliff district, especially when it comes to graffiti.

Many times we build these wonderful schools, but we don't have the rest of the development that comes around it. So you have buildings that are old or haven't been revitalized, so in the areas that aren't revitalized you have more graffiti in which you can see around here there is very little revitalization, yet there is a brand new school, said Jasso.

That brand new school, Hector P. Garcia Middle School, sits surrounded by buildings tagged with graffiti. Comfort Brown is the Executive Director of the St. Anthony Community Center in south Dallas and feels there's more to graffiti than vandalism.

I challenge us all: parents andcommunity leaders to look deeper. Perhaps we see a young artist without a canvas, no place to explore their dreams. No one to encourage their inspirations, she said.

Advocates say one of the best ways to keep buildings graffiti-free is to keep kids buys, especially in after school programs.

E-mail cflanagan@wfaa.com

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