Sunday, August 24, 2008

City graffiti clean-up fast but uncoordinated

Recently, a local resident documented 16 fresh “tags” that had appeared on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and reported them to the public works via their online form, as well as by e-mail to the public works call center. Most of the tags were painted over by Public Works within four business days.

To report graffiti, determine the address of the property, then call Public Works at 615-5566, or e-mail them at, or by filling out an online form. To find the online form, go to

However you report the problem, you will be given an incident number that you can use to inquire about progress in addressing your issue.

Councilmember Brunner’s office seemed confused about the scope of Public Works’ duties regarding graffiti. Copied on the request mentioned above, Ms. Brunner’s office (Geoffrey Johnson) contacted the resident who had reported the graffiti and stated that Public Works would not take action because the tags were on private property. Mr. Johnson volunteered to forward the matter to Code Enforcement, who would then determine who the property owners were, contact them, and give them 30 days to clean up their properties. That effort became moot within days, when Public Works painted over most of the graffiti.

A graffiti abatement supervisor at Public Works could not be reached for comment about the appropriate scope of Public Works’ efforts.

While the speed of Public Works response was excellent, the quality of their remediation was spotty. Frequently, colors were poorly matched. Graffiti that was clearly visible from the locations of reported tags, but which was not included in the complaint, was not addressed. Graffiti on brick or tile was not remediated.

Public Works needs to update their techniques for graffiti removal. The anti-graffiti industry has made significant strides in recent years. Simply painting over graffiti with poorly matched paint leaves our neighborhood a patchwork crazy-quilt of colors.

The City needs to initiate a program of prevention that incents business owners to apply graffiti-resistant coatings to high-risk areas. Various coatings and compounds are now available that allow most graffiti to be easily washed, wiped or scrubbed off.

For example, SEI’s GPA-200 Graffiti Proofer Anti-Stick claims to allow easy removal from brick or masonry surfaces. The surfaces must be blast-cleaned before sealants are applied.

Graffiti Solution’s MaxAll is a non-stick coating the manufacturer recommends for all surfaces except those with low-gloss paints.

American Polymers claims its Graffiti Solution System will last 25 years and is easily removable itself, yet protects various surfaces, including brick.

JJB Solutions sells Power-ite, a graffiti removal gel and other removers that it states are effective on a variety of surfaces.

Due to issues with color matching, painting over graffiti should be the last resort, not the de facto response. Public Works needs to move into the 21st Century and apply new methods. The City needs to work proactively with business owners to prevent and respond to graffiti attacks.

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