Opinion

Combating vandalism, graffiti will require a cooperative effort by all involved

The recent spate of vandalism and graffiti suffered by merchants on Marysville historic Third Street is just the latest occurrence of a problem that has city leaders, police, merchants, school district officials and others working together to find creative solutions which address the issue without creating hardships for the victims of the senseless crimes.
While Marysvilles neighbors to the north Lakewood, Smokey Point and Arlington have not experienced the significant growth in vandalism and graffiti that has plagued Marysville, they too must remain proactive in combating a problem from which no community is immune. The problem is so pervasive that the U.S. Department of Justices Office of Community Oriented Police Services estimates that $12 billion a year is spent cleaning up graffiti in the United States. In addition, the report states, graffiti contributes to lost revenue associated with reduced ridership on transit systems, reduced retail sales and declines in property values, as well as the perception of blight and heightened fear of gang activity.
To deal with the issue of graffiti, Marysville officials are considering several options. One would be to require that graffiti be covered within 48 or 96 hours (current city law allows 30 days); requiring businesses to keep spray paint and felt tip markers locked up; using volunteers to clean up graffiti using supplies donated by local merchants and offering a reduced fee business license to business owners who agree beforehand to allow access to their property for graffiti clean up.
All of these are viable options, although some could negatively affect local merchants, which should be given consideration when making a final decision. For example, local merchants are concerned about the effectiveness and costs associated with a requirement to keep spray paint and felt tip markers under lock and key. Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Caldie Rogers agreed that the lock and key could be a real hardship, and urged chamber members to get involved in the process.
Rogers was much more supportive of the proposal to give business owners a reduction in their business license fee if the agree to allow access to their property for graffiti clean up. Some officials worry that this will cause business owners to assume that the city will handle the clean up instead of quickly cleaning up the graffiti.
While each of the proposals have pros and cons, the community must come together and agree on the steps to be taken to combat this problem.
Creative solutions can be found. For example, the Neighborhood Services Department of the city of Phoenix, Ariz. Has developed a Graffiti Busters program aimed at keeping neighborhoods graffiti-free. The Graffiti Busters program (which can be found on the citys web site at http://phoenix.gov/NBHDPGMS/grafbust.html) provides information and services to combat graffiti and has the goals of removing graffiti within 48 hours of receiving a report from any city resident and to support a zero tolerance approach to graffiti in neighborhoods. To accomplish these goals the city takes a multidimensional approach. It has made it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase any vapor-releasing substances such as spray paint. The city also provides a Police Graffiti Hotline which resident and business owners can use to report graffiti. It has also formed Graffiti Buster crews which will remove graffiti reported through the hotline and coordinate with other public and private agencies to remove graffiti. The city requires a written permission slip from property owners for the graffiti clean up, but they have made the permission slip easily accessible by putting it on the Graffiti Busters web page. The city also offers a reward of up to $250 for information called in on the hotline which leads to the arrest of a graffiti vandal. The city also offers free paint, supplies and clean-up tools to neighborhood groups involved in a neighborhood clean up project. The city also offers the free use of paint sprayers to neighborhood groups (certification is required but the city provides the certification training for free).
While, for a variety of reasons, the solutions used by the city of Phoenix may not be the right ones for Marysville and the surrounding communities, they serve as an example of what can be done to deal with the problems of vandalism and graffiti.
Local residents dont have to wait for city leaders and others to decide what theyre going to do to combat the problem. There are a number of things local residents can do now to protect their community and neighborhoods from graffiti. Graffiti Hurts, a non-profit, community-based graffiti program (www.graffitihurts.org) offers a list of 10 things communities can do to prevent graffiti.
1. Get educated. Learn about graffiti, how it impacts your community and who is responsible for graffiti prevention and clean up in your area.
2. Report graffiti to the appropriate authorities.
3. Organize a paint-out. Gather supplies and community volunteers to remove graffiti in your neighborhood.
4. Plan a paintbrush mural to cover a wall continuously plagued with graffiti.
5. Coordinate a graffiti awareness campaign at your school or in the community.
6. Make a presentation on graffiti prevention to your school, class or neighborhood group.
7. Adopt a spot in your school or community and make sure it stays clean and free of graffiti.
8. Plant trees or other greenery near a graffiti-plagued wall. This will help prevent access.
9. Ask your community to install lighting in areas that are dark and often hit with graffiti.
10. Contact the local Keep America Beautiful affiliate (www.kab.org) and volunteer to help keep your community clean.

Combating graffiti is not an easy task and will require the cooperative efforts of all of those involved. City officials, police, business owners, school district officials and others are working together to come up with a solution that will deal with the problem without creating undue hardships on local businesses and residents. If this cooperative effort continues they should be able to come up with some effective solutions and, hopefully, we should see a noticeable decline in the amount of graffiti defacing our community.

To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Kris Passey, Scott Frank or Margi Hartnett e-mail forum@premier1.net.

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