Program continues to fight graffiti problem in Columbus

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Graffiti on businesses and homes not only make people angry, it also makes them feel unsafe.

A Franklinton homeowner tells NBC4 more needs to be done to punish the offenders and clean up their mess.

In 2010 and 2011 a large number of graffiti artist were locked up by the city and a push began to clean up their vandalism.

“This is the information that tells you there is going to be a bigger problem,” said Franklinton homeowner Rebecca Hunley, as she pointed to graffiti painted on railroad trestle box. “If this is not painted over it discourages business, it makes our neighborhood look bad,” she said.

The trestle runs alongside the Spaghetti Warehouse on West Broad Street within sight of downtown.

Columbus has a graffiti abatement program which was started with a grant in 2012, and is now paid for by the city.

For years, Hunley said she lead a team of teens and adults in a grant-driven paint out throughout Franklinton. She said over five years they painted 497 walls that were vandalized. She said in many cases the cover up does not always look better.

“When you make it ugly with graffiti, and keep it ugly with mismatched paint, and in some cases just the area of graffiti is painted, leaving a block, it really does not accomplish the purpose,” Hunley said.

NBC4 spoke with the councilman who helped start funding for the graffiti removal program.

“If you utilize the 3-1-1 system and have a city contractor come out to abate the graffiti, they do their best to try and match the paint and clean brick in a sensitive way,” said City Council President Zach Klein.

But city contractors only remove the graffiti between June and September. Hunley said those spray-painting do not just vandalize property during the Summer.

“It needs to be addressed as it happens to discourage more of it,” she said.

“If a homeowner abates his or her own graffiti that is beyond the control of the city and you may see those blocks, but that is the property rights of the homeowner,” said Klein.

Klein said the city’s contractor, Graffiti Protective Coatings, out of Los Angela, tries to match paint to the walls, but graffiti on railroads bridges and underpasses is the responsibility of the railroad.

“We try to work in concert with the railroads to clean up the graffiti, but that is their priority not ours and as much as we push them to clean up their property they march to their own drum,” Klein said.

Public records show the city has spent $500,000 since 2012 on cleanup and there have been 77 arrests over the last six years.

Here is a yearly breakdown:

  • 2010-17
  • 2011-29
  • 2012-11
  • 2013-6
  • 2014-3
  • 2015-6
  • 2016-5

Total 77 

Columbus city code states: The city requires the removal of graffiti from occupied and vacant structures. The city ordinance gives property owners 30 days to abate the graffiti. Property owners can grant the City permission to remove graffiti on occupied structures at the City’s expense. If a property owner chooses not to remove the graffiti themselves or with the City’s help, the City can obtain an order from the environmental court to remove the nuisance and charge the property owner for the cost of the removal.

A court official tells NBC4 it is difficult to arrest graffiti artist, because they have to be caught in the act. Which usually requires undercover police officers to stake out an area.What others are clicking on:

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