Graffiti response improves; abandoned cart policy questioned

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September 19, 2005 // UPDATED 1:58 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

The city's Solid Waste and Recycling program took over the graffiti hotline May 1 and has cut response times from over a month to three days, said Susan Young, division head.

The police used to handle graffiti calls, but they were a low priority for the cash-strapped department, she said. Her staff is used to handling similar customer service calls.

Young made the comments to the City Council's Transportation and Public Works Committee in July, earning universal praise from committee members.

Public Works received more than 1,013 graffiti reports in June, from city, state and county property to private homes and businesses, according to Public Works data. Solid Waste and Recycling staff cleaned 239 graffiti tags from city property. The average response was 2.5 days.

More than half of the clean-up orders went to city inspections, which informs property owners they have 20 days to remove it.

Solid Waste and Recycling sends photos of all graffiti to the Police Department within 3.2 days of the hotline call, Young said. It allows police to check for trends in gang activity and put the information in a police mapping system in a timelier manner.

Some Council committee members expressed concern her staff was getting too many tasks, others asked to make sure that utility bill customers were not footing the graffiti clean-up bill.

Young asked for and received permission to shift money around to pay for data entry help and other initiatives. She said that the money was not coming from utility bills, but from "Clean City" programs, such as collection-point fees and illegal dumping charges.

The graffiti hotline is 673-2090.

In other news, the city may review its abandoned shopping cart ordinance, passed in May. It allows the city to impound and dispose of unclaimed carts, but the fees appear to deter cart recycling.

When city crews pick up abandoned carts, they call the grocery stores and give them 15 days to pick them up. As of July 22, the city had sold 74 carts for scrap, at roughly 2-4 cents a pound, and had another 118 carts waiting, Young said.

So far, no grocery store has claimed any carts, she said. Under city ordinance, they have to pay $150 recovery fee for what is likely a tinged-up cart.

However, a new cart costs approximately $75.

Asked why the fee was so high, Young speculated that some in the industry might have provided the prices for the most expensive carts in hopes the ordinance would go away. Councilmembers appeared interested in lowering the fee to promote reuse of the carts.

So far, Rainbow has had the most impounded carts (62), followed by K-mart (40) and Cub (23).