Working to remove graffiti

City, county look to decrease gang tags on buildings
Jun. 27, 2014 @ 06:26 PM

In 2010, the Henderson City Council established an ordinance to address the growing problem of gang graffiti on public buildings or abandoned properties.

Four years later, the council is revisiting that ordinance to make it even stronger.

At the city’s work session Monday, code compliance director Corey Williams said the city has painted over graffiti on several structures, including some on Old Epsom Road, Miriam Avenue and Zene Street.

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

This has led to less graffiti within city limits.

“There has been a reduction,” he said. “But probably not where we want it.”

Williams said there has been a 60 percent decrease in violations issued this year compared to those issued during the same time frame in 2013.

His staff periodically surveys the city for areas marred by graffiti.

Property owners whose buildings have been vandalized are notified and have 10 days to remove it.

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.

Melissa Elliot, gang resource officer in Vance County, said most of the graffiti comes from gangs trying to mark their territory.

She said rival gangs sometimes color over existing tags and replace it with their own insignia.

“The faster you can get it down the better,” she said.

But some vacant properties in Henderson have remained tagged for more than a year despite notices being sent out.

Elliot is trying to coordinate with the city’s effort to remove graffiti through a program called Project Clean Slate.

She has recruited people from the community ­— some with former ties to gangs — to help with the initiative, which is sponsored by the Vance County Sheriff’s Office.

Project Clean Slate participants have already white-washed two graffiti covered buildings — one on Harriet Street and another on J.P. Taylor Road that had 32 gang signs.

At the board’s June 23 meeting, city councilman Gary Daeke requested the code compliance and police departments put together a monthly or quarterly report that would list how many owners were contacted by the city and buildings where graffiti was removed.

Though about 80 to 90 percent of owners comply with the written notification, Daeke said the city needs to act in cases where landlords or homeowners are not local and don’t comply within 10 days.

“We set rules, and then we don’t always follow through,” he said.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.