ADOT employee creates graffiti shield to keep vandals at bay

- Freeway signs and other road signs are often targets of vandals and cleaning off the graffiti can become very expensive -- but an employee at our very own Arizona Department of Transportation has come up with a way to stop vandals in their tracks.

You may have noticed black borders on signs around the valley -- these graffiti shields were created by an ADOT employee. Dudley Heller says about six years ago, he came up with the idea after being fed up with cleaning and repairing the signs. He says the shields have been very successful and are now on seven signs in the Phoenix-metro area.

"Just over the last 27 years, all of the graffiti we've had.. up there cleaning it in the middle of the night and I see the cost fixing these signs, so that's how we came about making this up," said Heller.

That frustration of cleaning graffiti off of freeway signs is what led Heller, an ADOT transportation maintenance supervisor, to create an anti-graffiti shield. What it does is prevent those looking to vandalize freeway signs from being able to reach them.

"It's actually pieces of aluminum that we bend to fit around the exterior panel that you see out in the field, the big signs that are mounted to the bridge," said Heller.

"We think it's a great idea that obviously has come forward from the employees themselves and that's what we're always looking for," said ADOT spokesman Doug Nintzel.

The shields were created about six years ago and are now protecting about 17 signs in Phoenix and Tucson.

Heller says they have been very successful at keeping "taggers" at bay. They're also saving tax payers a lot of money.

To make a shield, it costs about $17 per square foot. To close a freeway down to clean and replace a sign that's been damaged can cost upwards of $7,000.

"Not only saving money, but saving the safety of my people. We're out there all night long trying to climb around on this stuff to repair it, so it's just one less chance for someone to get hurt," said Heller.

Heller says vandals have tried to get around the shields, but are not successful. He says they might get a dot on a sign, but nothing compared to what they would be able to do without a shield present. He says they plan to continue putting them up as needed.


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