WATCH | Larry Bender is one of those everyday heroes making his community better, hiding in plain sight. He's the guy that wakes up every day at 4 a.m. and drives around the city painting over gang graffiti tags. Larry, and others like him, are called "buffers" because, well, they buff out walls.
Larry works in the Highland Park neighborhood. It's an area in East Los Angeles that's rapidly going through gentrification, but gang violence and graffiti haven't slowed down yet. Larry works with a company called Northeast Graffiti Busters.
Larry said he "speaks graffiti." And indeed, there is a language of sorts with gang tags. It's usually an acronym, followed by the name of the individual who wrote the tag. Larry says a lot of the tags are curses or depictions of sexual acts.
So why do taggers keep tagging? Why bother? After so many years doing this work, Larry says it's all for recognition from within their own communities. And yes, also to claim areas. That's why taggers often tag the same wall over and over.
It's hard work, and at the end of the day, Larry wears the badges of honor from the job: paint splatters, everywhere. He goes home, washes it all off, then does it all over again the next morning, and the streets are better for it.
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