This may not sound terribly remarkable, but the diligent removal of graffiti throughout New York City has been a priority that my administration has taken very seriously.
And as we work to reduce crime by nearly 40 percent, since 1993, and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers, we've made cleanliness and graffiti removal two very important components of our efforts.
Graffiti creates an impression of disorder and of lawlessness. A city tainted by vandalism invites more vandalism and more serious crime because it sends the message that the city doesn't care and isn't paying attention.
In the past, the city has turned a blind eye to this very serious problem that turns public spaces into threatening and menacing areas. However, we've taken the challenge of eliminating graffiti very seriously.
In July of 1995, I formed the Mayor's Anti-Graffiti Task Force. For the first time, this task force coordinated all of the agencies and entities that deal with the problem of graffiti, in total 18 different agencies, departments and authorities are involved.
Thanks to their efforts -- and yours -- our parks are now nearly graffiti free, with 97 percent of parks rated acceptable for graffiti. And last year, the Department of Transportation cleaned more than 6.5 million square feet of graffiti from our highways and roads.
Another part of our anti-graffiti initiative is law enforcement. In the past, virtually no one was arrested for graffiti vandalism, even though graffiti involves, very often, destroying the property of other people.
We understand that low level, highly visible crime often breeds more serious crime. So I initiated the Anti-Graffiti Vandal Squad as a specialized unit within the New York City Police Department. Last year, the Vandal Squad made nearly 190 felony arrests and nearly 1,300 misdemeanor arrests.
The task force, the Vandal Squad and the removal of graffiti from locations like the building on East 116th Street are all the kinds of actions that show people that we're serious about eliminating graffiti.
And as we continue to remain constantly vigilant in our fight against graffiti vandalism, we all enjoy the improved quality of life, the much lower crime rates and the inviting atmosphere that are the results of our efforts.
But everyone has to help to make our city graffiti vandal free. And I urge all New Yorkers to report graffiti in progress to our hotline that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Calls can be made anonymously and if the information you provide leads to the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of a graffiti vandal, we'll pay a reward of up to $500. The number for the hotline is 212-374-5914.
From Gracie Mansion, this is Mayor Rudy Giuliani.