When a graffito appeared on the back of the 16th Street gateway sign that welcomes Marylanders into the District in early December, the act of vandalism showcased the city’s problem with bombers. But unlike other illegal murals, tags, and drawings that crop up in the city, the silver paint disappeared almost immediately. Whereas most graffiti that show up within the District are removed by the Department of Public Works—which takes up to 21 calendar days in most circumstances—the gateway sign falls under the purview of a $70 million, five-year contract between the city and VMS Inc. VMS promises to erase graffiti within 48 hours, but subcontractor Ted Sabate, owner of Bethesda-based Cleaning Technologies, got to 16th Street in just two hours. “If I get a call for graffiti in the District, I stop what I’m doing and get a crew together—my turnaround time is real fast,” Sabate says. —Sarah Godfrey