Clean Slate: Countywide Tattoo Removal Program Back in Business

"I believe this service will enable some young people to overcome the effects of past choices which do not reflect where they want their lives to go now,” says Sheriff Greg Munks.

After a two-year hiatus, the San Mateo County Tattoo Removal Program will once again be available to those who want to make a change in their lives by erasing tattoos that signify gang affiliation or other past digressions—free of charge.

According to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, the program will reopen on Jan. 31 at the PAL Community Center in Redwood City.

The program was suspended two years ago when the aging laser machine used to remove tattoos became unusable and could not be repaired. Through fundraising efforts, a new laser machine, costing approximately $100,000, has been purchased, the sheriff’s office said.

Laser tattoo removal works through an intense beam of light that pulses harmlessly through the top layers of skin. This laser energy breaks up the tattoo pigment into smaller particles, which are then removed by the body’s immune system. It is very painful and takes many sessions over several months to complete the tattoo removal process.

Donated physician services and other community support allow the laser tattoo removal treatments to be provided free of charge.

“We would like to thank each and every donor that made purchasing this new machine possible. Without you, we would not be able to help our participants. Some have called every week for the past two years to find out when we would be able to start the program again. We are excited to be able to start helping them change their lives again,” said Manuel Velarde, RWC Police Dept. Juvenile Specialist.

The San Mateo County Tattoo Removal Program started in 1995 and has served hundreds of San Mateo County residents with tattoo removal services. The program is a collaboration of the San Mateo County Probation Office, Redwood City Police Department and San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Activities League and Redwood City PAL.

The mission of the program, according to the sheriff’s office, is to provide tattoo removal to people who have proven they are transitioning out of the gang life style. This program is also helping the domestic violence victims with healing from the abuse they suffered as many perpetrators force their victims to tattoo their names on them to mark the victim as property.

“Everyone deserves a chance to have a new start. I believe this service will enable some young people to overcome the effects of past choices which do not reflect where they want their lives to go now,” says Sheriff Greg Munks who supports the program.

“I’m glad to play a part in helping them change directions,” added Munks.

The Tattoo Removal Program was also designed to give each participant the opportunity to give back to society. Because the service is provided at no charge, those who participate in the program are asked to complete community service hours. To date, participants have logged thousands of community service hours, according to the sheriff’s office.

For program eligibility information, email Manuel Velarde at mvelarde@redwoodcity.org.


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