Graffiti on the rise in Portland, especially hate messages in re - KPTV - FOX 12

Graffiti on the rise in Portland, especially hate messages in recent months

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Paul Watts, working to clean up graffiti on SE 14th & Belmont Wednesday. (KPTV) Paul Watts, working to clean up graffiti on SE 14th & Belmont Wednesday. (KPTV)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Portland city leaders say there’s been a huge increase of graffiti in recent years, and specifically in hate graffiti since November. 

City Commissioners got an update on the problem - and efforts to document and remove it - in council chambers Wednesday morning, as leaders from the city’s abatement program presented a report.

In short, they say they need more funding and staff to be able to keep up with the increase in activity. An average of 15-30 instances of graffiti are reported to the city every day, at an average clean-up cost of $225. On top of that, 25 reports of hate graffiti have come in over the last three months.

“I can tell you we’re going to clean this and in a week it’s probably going to be right back here, unfortunately,” graffiti removal contractor Paul Watts told Fox 12 as he worked to clean-up markings from a retaining wall on SE 14th and Belmont Wednesday.

Watts says hundreds of hours are spent on clean-up every week.

As Fox 12 first reported in July, the problem has exploded because no one is investigating or prosecuting cases in Portland.

In 2015, police resources were cut due to staffing shortages. In 2016 alone, program leaders say graffiti was to blame for nearly $1,800,000 in Portland property damage.

“Taggers are coming in from across state lines just to tag in Portland,” Watts added. “We’re seeing people from New York, Boston and LA coming up here and staying with their friends, tagging up the city and going home. And that’s not the reputation we want.”

The abatement program, headed up by the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, works with victims to remove graffiti at little or no cost. They also work to train people on removal techniques, provide supplies and coordinate volunteer-based clean-up efforts.

“I would like to think we’re doing some good out there by cleaning up these properties. Look, the best deterrent to keeping graffiti off your area and out of your neighborhood is quick removal,” Watts said. “Nothing’s sacred anymore. The murals aren’t sacred, historic buildings aren’t sacred, neighborhoods aren’t sacred anymore, it’s happening everywhere.”

Commissioners - and ultimately Mayor Ted Wheeler - will decide on funding for the abatement program and other city services for the 2017-2018 budget year.

Abatement program leaders say any reduction in funding would leave a bigger burden on the shoulders of property and business owners.

A spokesperson for Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, told Fox 12 they hope to not only maintain funding for the abatement program next year, but increase it.

To read the full report presented to city commissioners Wednesday, visit https://www.portlandoregon.gov/auditor/article/631030.

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