Group cleans up graffiti

Jul. 25, 2014 @ 04:57 PM

A vacant building on Old Norlina Road covered in gang graffiti was finally cleaned with the help of volunteers from a Vance County Sheriff’s Office initiative called Project Clean Slate.

The volunteers have removed gang signs from a Harriet Street convenient store and the Burkhart building on J.P. Taylor Road, which is listed for sale on the Vance County Economic Development Commission’s website.

The group plans to tackle two more buildings in the coming months.

While the graffiti problem may be more prevalent within city limits, gangs also target unoccupied properties in Vance County.

Two other buildings currently listed on the EDC’s website — both on Americal Road — are plastered with gang symbols, mostly from a Hispanic group called the Nortenos.

Economic Development Director Stuart Litvin said the EDC board has not formally discussed this problem.

But he acknowledged the graffiti has a negative impact on economic development.

“It sends the wrong message to a prospective client that might be interested,” he said. “Tagging a building we are trying to sell is counter productive to what we are trying to do.”

Unlike the city, Vance County does not have ordinances that specifically mention the issue of graffiti on county properties.

“As far as I know in our zoning ordinance, I don’t think we have anything that directly addresses graffiti,” said Deputy County Manager and Planning Director Jordan McMillen.

A 2010 Henderson ordinance prohibits people from tagging “any natural or man-made surface on any city-owned property.”

Property owners whose buildings have been vandalized are notified, and they have 10 days to remove it, according to the city ordinance.

The ordinance affords the city the right to remove graffiti if the owner does not clean it. At that point, the property will be declared a public nuisance.

Property owners are responsible for reimbursing the city for costs of removing the graffiti.

If the city doesn’t receive payment within 30 days, staff will place a lien on the property.

McMillen said the county would reach out to the property owner if someone called in to complain.

“We don’t have a legal ordinance to enforce it, but we can strongly encourage them to clean it up,” he said.

Melissa Elliot, Vance County gang resource officer, said there should be a plan in place to handle graffiti within the county because Project Clean-Slate does not have the resources to do so.

“It’s bad for business. Companies that come in and want to locate here are turned off by the gang taggings they see on these buildings,” she said. “We need to deal with this problem in a way that helps economic development and improves the appearance of our community.”


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