Tacoma battles graffiti through pilot program

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by JANET KIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @JanetKimK5

KING5.com

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 6:32 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- Some may consider it art, but the City of Tacoma considers graffiti costly and at times dangerous. The city has now started the Rapid Graffiti Removal Pilot Program to battle the problem.

With a can of paint and a simple roller, Kurtis Ireland tackles his latest project.

"We're mitigating graffiti," said Ireland. "In essence, we're just painting over the damage, trying to get rid of it, in the process trying to beautify the wall a little bit."

Graffiti hasn't just been unsightly, but the City of Tacoma says it could hinder economic development.

"When we have graffiti, it's blighting, it's ugly, but that actually makes people feel unsafe," said City of Tacoma Program Development Specialist Allyson Griffith.  "It makes people unsure if they want to bring their business to the city."

It's an act of vandalism that can also lead to violence.

"We do have one piece of our graffiti removal program that is aimed at gang reduction," said Griffith.

Raela Guernsey says her Tacoma business has been targeted at least three times in recent months.

"When they hit the roof six months ago, I thought 'Oh no, we're in for it now,' said Guernsey.

It's why those with the Rapid Graffiti Removal Program has paid Guernsey a visit more than once, noting that quick removal is the key deterrent.

"So the faster that we can remove it, the less incentive the taggers have their name out there," said Griffith.

If the city has to respond to a business more than once for graffiti, program organizers will work with property owners to come up with a long term crime prevention plan, like adding lights or surveillance. The program has spent $35,000 of the $50,000 allocated for the pilot since the beginning of the year.

The work is contracted through Goodwill's Go-2 Property Services. Program organizers said the city conducts an average two removals a day and have completed 86 so far, which equates to about 8,000 square feet. City council will soon decide if it will fund the program through the year.

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