Graffiti control costing Portland more than $300K per year - KPTV - FOX 12

Graffiti control costing Portland more than $300K per year

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Graffiti is on the rise in Portland, and though it is a problem that's costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to clean up, it seems nothing is being done to prosecute the responsible taggers.

Contractors tasked with cleaning it all up believe the city is now becoming a destination for taggers, because of it.

Some people consider graffiti art, but to Paul Watts with Graffiti Removal Services, it's vandalism.

"The biggest difference between graffiti and art is permission, and if you don't have permission you don't have the right to do it," he said.

Watts is one of two contractors who works with the City of Portland to clean up just about any design you can imagine, anywhere you can imagine. He does it all using an environmentally safe product.

"Once I was harnessed off an 18 to 24 story building hanging off the side because taggers reached over the side and tagged on the side," he said.

Watts understands Portland through paint.

"I can get a read on when school is let out, or when taggers are up from LA or New York," he said.

Which means he understands the problem quite clearly.

"There's no one actively out there prosecuting graffiti crimes, and so it's opened up Portland to say, 'Hey, come to Portland and tag,'" Watts explained. "That has definitely happened."

Watts thinks the amount of graffiti he's now cleaning up across the city has likely doubled since the last Portland police officer assigned to actively investigate tagging was reassigned to daily patrols last November. 

FOX 12 has learned the city spends between $300,000 and $400,000 a year to clean up graffiti. In 2016 they've received nearly 3,500 reports of tagging on Portland properties, according to the city.

"It's really the graffiti that I see on residential properties that really get me," Juliette Muracchioli said.

Muracchioli runs the Graffiti Abatement program for Portland, which offers free and reduced cost removal services to small business owners, nonprofits and residents. 

"Compared to other cities, it's a very small budget for graffiti issues, so we do a lot with what we've got," she said.

Muracchioli noted she too has noticed an uptick in graffiti cases since Portland Police shifted staff away from pursuing taggers, though it is a decision she understands given the other more violent crimes the bureau is investigating.

Still, she continues to document each incident herself so that if officers wind up investigating one day, the victims have a shot at getting restitution.

"We're hopeful that the position will come back and I will continue to compile locations associated with tags in our database," Muracchioli said. 

In the meantime Watts continues on, fully knowing it's only a matter of time before his next call.

Both Watts and Muracchioli believe that the best deterrent for taggers is removing graffiti as soon as possible.

"We are working on this together because it's everyone's problem," Watts said. "If you let it sit it's going to be like a dog walking down a street on a fire hydrant. Everyone is going to hit it out there so you want to get it off as quick as possible."

Watts also works with the city to put together special kits for volunteers who want to help out. Inside the kit are wipes with sensitive surface graffiti remover that work on all types of surfaces.

The city also suggests painting a mural or looking at changing up the landscaping around your home, to discourage taggers from targeting your property.

If you want to report graffiti in your neighborhood there are several ways to do so. You can use the PDXReporter app, you can email or call 503-823-4824.

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