After a flurry of graffiti reports last weekend, Hermiston police unveiled their newest weapon to curb tagging: a sodablaster.

A somewhat bulbous contraption, the sodablaster is powered by a seriously large compressor. Both machines are housed in a utility trailer for easy transport. As designed, the sodablaster shoots baking soda at high pressure through a nozzle.

The device is less abrasive than a sandblaster and cleaner and more environmentally friendly than similar machines that use crushed walnut shells or other media.

“It will aggressively take the paint off, without damaging what's underneath,” Lt. Jason Edmiston explained this week. “We've used it in quite a few applications.”

Kelly Parsons, Hermiston's code enforcement officer, provided a demonstration earlier this week. Parson fired up the compressor and scrubbed black paint off a white, vinyl fence near the intersection of N.E.  Fourth Street and Punkin Center Road.

It may have taken more time to coil up the heavy-duty hose and lock up the trailer.

According to Edmiston, anything that streamlines the department's workload when dealing with tagging activity is a huge help.

“(Tagging) is a huge strain on the department,” Edmiston said, adding that it's not always practical to let business owners or community members clean up graffiti.

“The longer it stays, the more likely it will get tagged over,” Edmiston said. “We believe it's important to be proactive. Kelly does a phenomenal job with it.”

Along with removing graffiti as soon as possible, Edmiston said the department cites parents for failure to supervise when youth offenders are caught, and works with community and business leaders to identify and solve problems before they begin.

The sodablaster is an example of a collaboration, with both time and money donated by local partners, according to Edmiston.

The Good Shepherd Health Foundation donated approximately $4,000 for the sodablaster, according to Edmiston, and Ken Brown donated the machine itself, valued at close to $10,000.

Additionally, Darrel Sallee, of Auto Kool, donated time and expertise to help repair a radiator on the compressor that runs the sodablaster.

“He absolutely refused to bill the department,” Edmiston said.


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