'The Buff': A day in the life of a LA graffiti remover

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Larry Bender arrives at the office at 4 a.m. and hits the streets to remove graffiti in Los Angeles. (KABC)

Cleaning up graffiti in Los Angeles can be an arduous and sometimes dangerous job.

The city contracts with companies to remove the blight, and as Larry Bender can attest, they never know what they're going to find.

"It's a surprise every morning," Bender said. "It's just a really fun job. It really is. Some people don't like it, but I love it."

Bender has been removing graffiti off city streets for more than 20 years. Though his technical title with Northeast Graffiti Busters is a paint removal technician, Bender said he's referred to something else in the streets.

"In street terms (I'm) 'The Buff.' I buff out graffiti. Some people call me other things, but we won't get into that," Bender quipped.

To have the job, Bender admits it helps to be a little crazy. He said taggers and gang members can become aggressive to those in his profession.

"They've tried to jump me several times. (I was) shot at once," Bender explained.

But despite the scary encounters, Bender greets everyone the same way.

"You treat them as you do everybody, with respect," Bender said. "I'll usually hit them with a 'good morning.'"

Bender takes pride in his work as he tries to make a visible difference in the community.

"Trying to make things a little better in the city. Trying to clean things up," he said.

But trying was the key word. Unfortunately, Bender said some of the graffiti he cleans up is re-tagged the very same day.

"On Monday, I got tagged three times on one wall. I had to paint it out three different times the same morning," Bender described.

While Bender loves his job, he may be putting down his paint brushes soon to enjoy his retirement.

"Like I say, 'my reign of terror is coming to a close,'" Bender laughed.
Related Topics:
societygraffitipaintgang activityHighland ParkLos AngelesLos Angeles County
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