City employee to clean graffiti

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July 12, 2004 // UPDATED 2:29 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

City officials have announced a new, $50,000 pilot project to cut down on graffiti based on a St. Paul antitagging program.

A full-time city employee will paint over graffiti on private property after securing the owner's consent. The service will be free to residential and commercial property owners. Consent forms will be included with inspection forms sent to graffiti-marred addresses.

The free city service will apply to graffiti scribbled no more than 8 feet above ground, said JoAnn Velde, deputy director of the city's Housing Inspection Services. The city's free service won't clean painted brick or other ornate facades, such as stucco, she said.

The city will prioritize graffiti cleanup efforts after reviewing vandalism reports. Velde estimates the city will have the manpower to paint over more than 1,000 tags annually.

Neighborhood and business leaders

citywide have complained about graffiti

proliferating on business facades and other private property.

City Councilmember Gary Schiff (9th Ward), who started a task force on the issue this winter, said graffiti is more than an eyesore.

"Gang graffiti is a public safety threat," Schiff said. "It serves an advertisement for a gang. It's a way to control territory and can lead to violence."

(Police have consistently said that despite the presence of gang graffiti, most graffiti in Minneapolis is not gang-related.)

The new pilot project will take some of the cleanup costs off of private property owners. A new city employee will be hired, shifting some cleanup costs to taxpayers.

After receiving a graffiti report, the city will send property owners an advisory letter ordering them to either remove the graffiti themselves within 10 days, or consent to having the city painter clean up the tags for free.

Velde said she assumes most people will choose the city's free cleanup option.

Property owners who fail to respond to inspection orders to remove graffiti face steep fines and some end up in Housing Court. Presumably, a city-sponsored cleanup would spare graffiti victims from becoming scofflaws themselves.

Rocco Forte, assistant city coordinator for regulatory services, said he hopes the pilot program leads to a "permanent solution."

In a prepared statement, Forte said, "Property owners are tired of feeling victimized when their property is damaged. By allowing consent to be given on private property, we can remove graffiti quick and stop it from proliferating."

The city's fire stations will provide free graffiti remover to citizens.

City officials encourage property owners to be proactive and report graffiti. Those who witness vandals in progress are asked to call 911. Others are asked to call the city's graffiti hotline at 673-2090.

Property owners can also file graffiti reports online at /email-form-graffiti.asp. To file a report by mail, send the address, date and approximate time of the vandalism, along with the property owner's name, address and phone number to the Minneapolis Police Department Graffiti Task Force, 5th Precinct, 3101 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, MN, 55404.

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