A recent press release from the Mayor’s office reads:

“Initiative significantly increases fines for graffiti offenses, offers rewards to those who help police apprehend graffiti vandals, and enhances city’s clean-up capabilities” (read full release here).

There exists the potential for some positive outcomes with the new proposal. Increasing the penalty from $200 up to $1,000 may have a deterrence factor. Likewise, the release indicates that the City may step up and enforce a city ordinance that gives private property owners 10 days to remove the graffiti or seek the City’s assistance in doing so. Enforcing existing regulations is a great start.

Another initiative referenced in the release is that citizens can file a graffiti report electronically at the city’s website. Unfortunately, the graffiti reporting tool is yet another government run roach motel (in that data goes in, but it never comes back out). Providence must follow the lead of other large cities (Chicago’s ICAM data drives chicagocrime.org or Washington DC’s Service Request data) that are using technology to increase transparency and visibility into city services.

What is missing on the City’s graffiti reporting site is a view of the data that citizens have submitted. A view that includes

  • the date the graffiti was reported
  • the location of the graffiti (perhaps with a neighborhood designation so citizens could see all the graffit data on their neighborhood)
  • the date that the City placed a notice on the property to start the 10-day enforcement countdown
  • the date the City is scheduled to remove the graffiti
  • confirmation that the graffiti has been removed

Something perhaps like this:

Graf Mockup

The electronic reporting is a good first step, let’s hope our city takes the next one towards greater transparency into the services it purports to provide.


Graham C · December 27, 2006 at 1:51 am

It’s great to see some educated opinions on this instead of the common white christian soccer mom view. Graffiti is not a big problem, and no matter how much money they spend on removal and prevention, graffiti still prevails. It would be better to have pro graffiti groups and clubs to promote graffiti for its artistic views. This would keep away much of the ugly graffiti off the streets if they tought the un written rules of graffiti (No painting/tagging private property, cars, churches, graveyards, schools, etc. Do not paint if you suck, and many similar things)

glo · November 13, 2006 at 8:31 pm

Graffiti is a problem in a lot of communities all over the world. The kids that create it are not always bad kids but some of them are artist wanting to be noticed. I am the gal behind moosegal.com and I am inviting all kids that want to display graffiti to come and submit their work. This it the link to the graffiti wall with all details and rules. With luck, these kids will find a wall on the net to be more attractive then the buildings in their neighbourhood. Never know, someone could find opportunity and a future by displaying it on the net.

Might I suggest the City approach the local library to allow free services for these kids to scan their art (graffiti) resize it and send it to my wall. Working with these kids might prove to be more beneficial.

link: http://www.moosegal.com/graffiti_details.html

Judd Crandel · September 25, 2006 at 2:18 pm

is graffiti really a problem that deserves this much attention when we have methamphetamine epidemic that outshadows any other region of the country?

how about the fact that the city of portland has the highest unemployment rate per capita in the entire country next to detroit?

why not strike at the real problems that truly govern the way the city is run, instead of easily-identifiable and youth-oriented vandal crimes?

Anon · June 30, 2006 at 6:35 am

It makes one wonder how much of this is just election-year pandering. If the city doesn’t assist owners in removing the graffiti, how will the mayor show off his slick Graffiti Removal Team van with his name all over it?

atear · June 29, 2006 at 9:34 pm

This represents a change in the understood grafitti policy of the past few years, where grafitti on private property had to be cleaned by the owner, with no assistance from the city. It seems the city will remove the grafitti on private buildings within 10 days of posting a notice for cleanup.

“Under the ordinance, the City will place a notice on private property giving the owner 10 days to remove graffiti or to seek the City’s assistance in cleaning it up at no charge.

If the waiver is not signed, the City may enter the property and remove the graffiti at the owner’s cost.”

Jim · June 29, 2006 at 10:51 am

Something like this is just what the doctor ordered. A website where citizens can report problems and MORE IMPORTANTLY see what the city’s response time is for addressing those problems. Technology is not the barrier to such a tool in Providence.

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