A troop of Girl Scouts in South Tucson decided to combat graffiti Saturday by covering a public wall with spray paint.

In pursuit of a Bronze Award for community service, six members of Girl Scout Troop 645 did research on combating graffiti and learned that street art is an effective deterrent, troop leader Pilar Ruiz said. The Bronze Award is the highest award Girl Scouts in fourth- and fifth grade can earn.

They painted the mural Saturday morning at the corner of West 27th Street and South Fifth Avenue, with the help of local artist Germaine Pesquiera, but the troop's work began months earlier.

The scouts first had to identify a community problem. Once they decided graffiti was a blight on their neighborhoods, they had to find a remedy. Their solution: fight spray paint with spray paint and create a beautiful mural on a blank wall. With permission, of course.

To find such a wall, troop leaders drove them around South Tucson looking for potential sites, Ruiz said. They narrowed their selections, presented their ideas to city officials and received approval and a grant to pay for the materials. At a community health fair, they also solicited input from their neighbors about what should be depicted.

"It shows important features of South Tucson," Jasmyne Godoy, 10, said.

Symbols include the American flag, a Girl Scout emblem and the Santa Cruz Catholic Church.

It's also a tribute to John Valenzuela, "the only South Tucson police officer to die while in service," Mary Ruiz, 10, said. "The 20th anniversary was yesterday."

While the girls were painting the mural, city officials were at a memorial service for the fallen officer, who is depicted in the painting. He died in the line of duty on May 17, 1993, said Lt. Jeff Inorio, spokesman for the South Tucson Police Department.

Of all the imagery in the mural, "I think the thing that will get most people's attention is the firefighters because it has such vibrant colors," Olivia Suzarrey, 10, said about the outline of three firefighters silhouetted against an orange and yellow background.

Pesquiera, who has painted dozens of murals in Tucson, followed the lead of the troop when it came to design. They chose the symbols to represent the mile-square city and Pesquiera provided an outline on the wall. After the girls filled in the images Saturday, Pesquiera, a friend of the troop leaders, added some detail and shading.

"My job really, was just to tune it up," he said.

When asked why they want to prevent graffiti, the girls were quick to respond.

"It's wrong," Olivia said.

"It's against the law," Mary added.

"And, it has bad words," Jasmyne noted.

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or at 573-4191.