Dave Cutlip is hoping to give people with racist or gang tattoos a chance to improve their lives

By Gabrielle Olya
March 08, 2017 10:25 AM

Dave Cutlip got the idea for his Random Acts of Tattoo project after a man came into his shop with gang-related tattoos on his face that he didn’t want anymore.

“He was explaining to me what these tattoos meant and how they made him feel,” the owner of Baltimore’s Southside Tattoo, 49, tells PEOPLE. “He was telling me this story about how people follow him around when he’s doing his job as an electrician, and it was hard for him. I could see the hurt in his eyes.”

While Cutlip was unable to cover this man’s tattoos because they were too close to his eyes, he was inspired by the idea of donating his services to help other people hide their racist or gang-related tattoos. He says many of these marks are reminders from time served in prison, and they often hold people back from moving on with their lives.

“If you do your time, you should be able to come out and go about your business,” he says. “It doesn’t happen that way. You have that constant reminder. If you’re trying to get a job, they won’t hire you with white power [or gang] tattoos.”

So Cutlip took it upon himself to help.

“There’s so much hate in this world. I figured if I could fix just one tattoo one time, then I’m doing my part,” he says.

RELATED VIDEO: Photographer ‘Erases’ Ex-Gang Members’ Tattoos

So far he has covered the tattoos of nine different individuals. One client called him to let him know he immediately found a job once his white power tattoo was covered up.

“I only help people that want to help themselves,” says Cutlip. “Every single one of them has come out of either poverty or prison.”

Cutlip is currently trying to expand his project by finding other tattoo artists willing to volunteer their time, so that they can help more people in more areas. He is also raising money to provide funding for laser tattoo removal through a Go Fund Me page for those tattoos that cannot be covered up.

“I feel really good about what I’m doing,” says Cutlip. “I know that what I’m doing is a good thing.”