Graffiti cleanup on private property: Who's responsible?

Graffiti cleanup on private property: Who's responsible?

CREATED Aug 15, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- You see graffiti just about everwhere you turn. The city cleans up the mess on public domain, but who's responsible for cleaning up the work of taggers on private property? Of course, the taggers should be. The reality is -- neighborhoods can't count on that.

Cleaning up graffiti on private property is a growing problem that's keeping neighborhood associations very busy trying to figure out -- and clean up.

KGUN9 returned to a Southside area that taggers often target and found ugly graffiti once again blanketed a corner at the end of a Southside street. Utility poles, highway walls, barriers and street signs were covered with markings in mid-July. A group of volunteers cleaned it up a few weeks later, but it didn't last. Yolanda Herrera, of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, said it returned in less than 24 hours.

And just down the street, taggers often target a nearby neighbor's decorated wall and volunteers return each time to get rid of the graffiti. Becki Quintero said, "They'll let us know when it's tagged and I have paint that's the matching color."

Quintero showed us a foreclosed home that's been tagged too many times. "Tagging has grown more than a couple of weeks ago," she said.

Herrera and Quintero spend dozens of hours a week just trying to keep up with the growing graffiti. And they're not alone. In the month of June, the city cleaned up 1567 utility poles, 1061 painted walls, 354 signs and the list goes on.
Both women say that it only takes one phone call to the city to wipe out graffiti  on public domain, but more phone calls are needed to clean up private property, such as foreclosed homes and utility boxes and poles. Herrera said, "It's all different. So you have TEP (for the ulility poles), the city with the (street) sign, you have ADOT with the wall. So three different agencies, you have to call constantly to keep this up."

Neighborhood associations throughout Tucson have turned to the city's graffiti unit for help because of the rise in tagging. But Lt. Diana Lopez, of TPD's Graffiti Unit, told KGUN9 that the city has spent too much money cleaning up private property, so they, in turn, are reaching out to the businesses.

"In the last few months, we started to reach out to utility companies. The Real Estate Association for the foreclosed homes. Because who's really responsible for the foreclosed homes? It would be the bank. A lot of the banks are not in this state," said Lt. Lopez.

KGUN9 asked: "What has the response been from these organizations in tackling these issues?" 
Lt. Lopez replied: "Very good. We're reaching out to them to get a commitment or work something out where there's a central line and the requests get divvied out to the company or get the info out to the public if you have this utility box -- and who you report it to," said Lt. Lopez.

Lt. Lopez said it's a work in progress and it could take several months to get that worked out. The  Neighborhood Association hopes the complete plan rolls out sooner as volunteers spend hours each week trying to wipe out the growing graffiti in the southside neighborhood. "It's the time. Time is very valuable and so that is probably more so than the paint," said Quintero.

Graffiti Unit Information: Graffiti Reporting Guidelines

Anyone who witnesses an act of graffit in progress: Call 911 immediately.

Regarding graffiti anywhere and/or on your personal property or business property:  All clean up requests need to be made through these processes.

2. Smart Phone application 'mytucson"
3. 721-city

If you chose to remove graffiti yourself - -
1. Take photos of the graffiti and moniker. Include date, time and exact location>
2. Estimate the square foot cost of the cleanup.
3. Report the act through
4. Graffiti must be removed within 24 hours. This eliminates the recognition and notoriety that taggers seek by vandalizing your property.

If the graffiti occures on public utility boxes or equipment, the we ask you to contact the owner of the property>

TEP - 623-7111
Tucson Water Dept. - 791-4311
Comcast - 744-1900
Cox (green box) - 300-5292
Southwest Gas - 1-877-860-6020
Qwest (beige box) - 1-866-642-0444
City of Tucson properties - 792-2489
Suntran properties - 792-9222
Arizona Dept. of Transportation - 388-4200
US Postal Service - 388-5316 or 388-5030

More information on graffiti reporting and removal: