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Broken Window Syndrome

broken-windowA house or office building with all its glass intact tends to stay intact.  But, if one of the windows is broken and not immediately repaired, pretty soon all the other windows will be broken because people will think no one cares.  It’s the opening wedge to more serious decay in the quality of their life.  When people see graffiti unattended they believe the quality of their life has been threatened in a personal way and they begin to wonder whether the good guys or the bad guys control the neighborhood.  By James Wilson, Social Scientist, UCLA

People Magazine Article Mr. Clean, Fred Radtke, Operation Clean Sweep New Orleans


Read about Mr. Fred Radtke of Operation Clean Sweep, featured in People Magazine's article: "Mr. Clean"


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Operation Clean Sweep works with the community to assist with graffiti prevention, through deterrent programs and strict legal enforcement to eliminate future vandalism.

graffiti removal_fred radtke

We work with the community to increase awareness of anti-graffiti programs and services available.  New Orleans, Metro Residents and Business Owners can benefit by anti-graffiti education programs.


Eradication of graffiti denies vandals the recognition they want.  Operation Clean Sweep removal crews are working hard to keep New Orleans clean, by providing removal services, through sponsorships.


Operation Clean Sweep is dedicated to improving the quality of life for New Orleans and Metro residents, through the development of anti-graffiti programs, educational programs, and by controlling graffiti to preserve the environment.


Learning about graffiti vandalism is crucial to preventing young adults from getting involved in activities that destroy property and our community.  Operation Clean Sweep provides graffiti programs for elementary and high school students.

Operation Clean Sweep Education & Development, New Orleans, Louisiana


Operation Clean Sweep: Education & Development (OCS Ed. & Dev.) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) in good standing, which specializes in eliminating graffiti.

Before Operation Clean Sweep: Education & Development was formed, if someone had a graffiti problem, they would call the police department.  The police would spend time occupied on the phone, the use of a police officer and patrol car to fill out reports, instead of dealing with higher priority crimes.  Unfortunately not much could be done by the police department as the perpetrator would need to be caught in the “act.”  Ultimately, the graffiti usually stayed on the building.

Since inception, OCS Ed. & Dev. saved the New Orleans Police Department over 4,000 phone calls by creating the Graffiti Hotline.  Operation Clean Sweep’s goal is to  eliminate the graffiti within seven days of the call.

Its mission is to eliminate graffiti in New Orleans and the metro area for a better quality of life.


Fred Radtke of Operation Clean SweepThe corporation was formed in 1997 when the President and Founder, Fred Radtke, traveled from his Lakeview office to downtown.  Passing graffiti everyday (about 50 yards long, on the cemetery walls) at Canal Street and Metairie Road.

After several weeks, it started to become depressing, so Mr. Radtke contacted City Hall, whom related to him that there was not a department that handled graffiti removal and referred him to the New Orleans Police Department.  As mentioned in the mission statement, the police could not do anything really, except fill out reports.

Mr. Radtke then invested $20,000 of his own money to get the corporation established.

The Need for the Project in the Community: Remove Graffiti, Improve Quality of Life

Over the past two decades, graffiti has become a growing problem for many cities in the United States.  In recent years, graffiti-writing has spread to neighborhoods in rural and suburban areas.  In a study by Dayton University (1995), they estimated the national cost of graffiti removal to be approximately $7 billion with an estimated increase of 15% each year.

When discussing the consequences of graffiti vandalism, social scientists and economic advisors often refer to the “The Broken Window Theory, (Glazer, 1979).”  They draw a connection between the occurrence of graffiti and perceived diminished quality of services.  Such perceptions have numerous negative consequences on communities.

The unconscious connection between graffiti and more serious crimes causes property values to decline, stymies business growth and discourages tourism.  Graffiti vandalism also has an adverse impact on architecture.  Unable to overcome the problem and unwilling to waste money on repetitive removal efforts, authorities specify vandalism attracts other forms of crime and street delinquency to the area, slowly replacing the sense of ownership once common amongst residents with fear, anxiety and frustration.

By responding within seven days to remove graffiti and maintaining removal for one year, prevents all of the above mentioned.  Also, it educates the awareness about graffiti, and reduces graffiti city-wide, provides a better quality of life for the citizens of New Orleans, and reduces crime.


Post Katrina

City of New OrleansOperation Clean Sweep: Education & Development was relocated to Houma, LA., putting over 32,000 miles traveling back and forth to New Orleans and living in a trailer, we have accomplished the following:

  • Press conference with James Bernazzini, FBI Gang Task Force, Chief Riley, NOPD., Lt. Savage, Intelligence, NOPD
  • French Quarter Program with the French Quarter Business Association & the Vieux Carre’ Commission in restoring buildings to their traditional colors from graffiti.
  • Partnering with the Downtown Development District in removing graffi
  • Partnering with the Regional Planning Commission in removing graffit
  • Article about restoration in the Preservation Resources Magazine
  • Weed & Seed Program to eliminate graffiti in Treme and Central City
  • We are now back in New Orleans

Graffiti is an on-going battle, and with this battle, we have an army of volunteers who will help.  But this army needs supplies to keep the reduction of graffiti down.  Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Operation Clean Sweep: Education & Development reduced graffiti 65% overall in the city, and 85% in the French Quarter.   Operation Clean Sweep: Education & Development painted out over 10,000 graffiti tags since we started our program and won a national award from “Keep America Beautiful”, with the most innovated graffiti program in the country.  After Katrina, graffiti has put fear back in the city while it is still recovering from devastation.