City of Asheville Public Safety Committee Considers Graffiti Ordinances

The Public Safety Committee recommends public safety policy direction in the areas of police, fire, EMS, emergency management services, illegal use and possession of narcotic and drugs, and other issues of public safety within the City of Asheville. Minutes from their meetings can be found on the City website: http://www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/CityClerk/CouncilCommittees/PublicSafetyCommittee.aspx

At their March meeting the Public Safety Committee received staff report and support materials regarding a Graffiti Ordinance. Staff identified key areas for consideration and action in dealing with graffiti issues. A brief overview is provided below, but we encourage you to read the full staff report which can be downloaded from the March Meeting Supporting Document links http://www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/CityClerk/CouncilCommittees/PublicSafetyCommittee.aspx

Education/Communication

  • Increasing awareness on the impacts graffiti has on a community, steps the community can take to deter this type of vandalism, and what to do if graffiti vandalism takes place on one’s property.
  • The coordination of efforts between city staff and community stakeholders is important to ensure all researched best practices are shared between partners.  For example, educational components should not include pictures of tags or reference a specific tag.  One of the goals of the vandals is to get media attention for their tag.
  • Public engagement opportunities in the development of an ordinance.  As with changes made to both the massage and noise ordinance in the last few years, an effective public input program designed by staff to provide useful information to policy makers is an option to consider.

Enforcement

  • Catching graffiti vandals in the act of tagging can be difficult for law enforcement.  Graffiti vandals can deface property and leave the scene in a matter of seconds.  The APD Crime Analyst, district supervisors and community resource officers currently track incidents of graffiti vandalism and conduct special operations in “hot spot” areas where graffiti vandalism is occurring or likely to occur.
  • This use of predictive analytics will be enhanced by a new campaign to encourage timely reporting of graffiti vandalism by the public and increased self-initiated reporting by APD officers.  Currently, only one-third or less of all graffiti vandalism is formally reported.
  • APD has also constructed a database to track all graffiti activity in “real-time.”   Incident reports, field interviews with potential suspects, suspect vehicle information, information from social networking sites and other intelligence information is fed into the database with the intent of constructing an investigative resource that exists in real-time.
  • APD has implemented the SafeCam program to assist with graffiti vandalism and other crimes.  Businesses and private property owners that have cameras that view into public areas are encouraged to register their existing surveillance camera systems with APD with the intent to assist APD with investigating criminal acts.

Rapid Removal

  • All of the communities  benchmarked in North Carolina that have graffiti ordinances, require the property owners to clean the graffiti off their buildings in a specified amount of time in order to avoid being fined.  Unfortunately while this punishes the victim, it is the most effective way to reduce or eliminate graffiti.
  •  In most cases, communities make efforts to assist property owners (e.g., grace period for clean up, list of qualified contractors, paint donated by the community) when ordinances requiring property owners to remove graffiti are adopted

A spreadsheet Comparison of Graffiti Removal Ordinances for Private Property in North Carolina and the Draft Asheville Graffiti Ordinance can be downloaded from the March meeting minutes supporting documents list. http://www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/CityClerk/CouncilCommittees/PublicSafetyCommittee.aspx

WABA will post more information on when, where and how you can participate in the public process on this ordinance.


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