Residents Urged to Report Graffiti
“I don’t think tagging is supposed to be normal. Number one, it is a crime, you can serve time in jail and get steep fines. Fines should be expensive because it is expensive to clean up,” he said.
Saffen said he has noticed an explosion of graffiti from Baseline all the way to the I-17.
“It’s a bad problem,” he said.
During recent months, he has seen more and more graffiti appearing on speed limit signs, stop signs, buildings and walls.
“Kids should not have to see this going to school. This is what my thought process was. I needed to investigate this as a citizen,” he said.
He lives near Baseline and 7th Avenue in an area within a homeowners association, which cleans up graffiti immediately, but it was outside his development that he began to see more and more graffiti.
“I noticed a pattern of spray paint that was getting out of control and it appeared that no one reported it, but me,” he said.
On one of the streets near his home within the past four months there have been nine different tagging events.
What amazes him is the apathy of people who see graffiti every day.
“It amazed me that thousands of people drive by every day and no one was doing anything about it,” he said. “Between 30,000 to 50,000 cars go down a day.
Saffen thinks the reason the average citizen does not get involved in graffiti removal is they fear they will become entangled in a long, involved process.
“One of the misconceptions is that reporting graffiti takes a long time. Dealing with police or making a report on Graffiti Busters takes less than 10 seconds and is completely anonymous. They worry somehow they will be identified and worry about retaliation,” he said.
He said there is also another misconception that graffiti will be ignored unless it reaches a certain dollar amount of damage.
Not true, he said. There is no minimum amount.
“We all have to get involved and make a phone call or get online or the Graffiti Busters paint truck will not know where to go,” he said. “What I have noticed is that is city streets, they don’t get cleaned up right away unless people get involved and call Graffiti Busters.”
“The only time anything happens is when someone picks up a phone or gets on the internet,” he said.
The city has a whole department and a host of volunteers to deal with graffiti. One of its missions is to make it easier for people to report the crime.
Tim Boling, who is the deputy director of the Graffiti Busters program in Phoenix said it is important for neighborhoods not to become apathetic about graffiti.
“If they get to the apathy state, it will lead to other crimes. Graffiti is a first tier crime that leads to robbery and assault. If a neighborhood allows graffiti and the deterioration becomes visible, the bad guy thinks people there don’t care,” Boling said.
He said the city is making it easier and easier to report graffiti.
“We have an agreement with Verizon and Alltel that goes directly to the Graffiti Busters hotline. They can use their cell phone to report graffiti by punching in #gone or #4663.
IPhone users can download an application that afterwards reporting tagging is almost as easy as point and shoot.
“If we get the location, we will be sure to get there. If we know it’s there we will send a person,” he said.
If a person witnesses tagging in progress, they should call 911.
“It’s a priority one call. We have a lot of success stories about police coming out and catching someone,” he said.
Of course there is the 24-hour graffiti hotline at 602-495-7014. For those who don’t want to call they can email firstname.lastname@example.org. ”
The city is trying to remove graffiti within 48 hours of a report.
“If you call during business hours, you get a live person. You tell the person on the other end,” he said. “We take graffiti very seriously and come out and address it right away. It (graffiti) might come back a couple of days later, but we continue to fight the battle.”
Boling said the city has a three-pronged approach dealing with graffiti. The first is abatement. The second is education, going into schools teaching children the negatives of graffiti and thirdly, working with police.
He said the program painted 65,000 sites last year at a cost of about $2 million, but they are not the only agency fighting blight. The parks department covers its own as does ADOT on the freeways and the utility companies take care of their own issues.
He said all tolled, it costs more than $6 million a year to remove graffiti in the city of Phoenix.
If a person or neighborhood wants a more hands-on approach, the city will give them paint and rollers to do the job and training in how to use a high power sprayer after which they can check it out, he said.
Written by Patty McCormac