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Owners tackle city’s graffiti trouble

We’ve all seen it. But the owners of buildings around the community have seen too much of it and have had to deal with getting rid of it.

“It” is graffiti (or “graffito” as it says in the huge, 1934 dictionary in the Springfield News-Sun’s editorial department.)

You know, those painted words and symbols that show up on various structures, sometimes in the oddest places. The practice is also known as “tagging.”

Vern Donnelly and Angela Ward, who own property at Penn and Section streets said, “It’s gotten bad.” They showed me where someone actually climbed a fence topped with barbed wire to get to the second floor of their building and “tagged” it.

But Ward isn’t just complaining about the practice. As she says, “I’ll put my money where my mouth is. I’m willing to work with authorities to stop the problem.”

She added she will even solicit donations to fund alternative methods of expression or rewards for information leading to prosecutions.

Ward maintains that “it’s gonna take a community” to deal with graffiti and the problems it causes.

Local government officials are aware of those problems and have taken steps to deal with them.

Steve Thompson at the city of Springfield’s Code Enforcement Department told me that, once they receive a complaint, they start the process of locating the property owner, who is then given a week to remove the graffiti. If not, a warning letter is sent and if the owner does not comply, a civil fine can ultimately be imposed. Money from those fines goes into the city’s General fund.

Thompson indicated that last winter “the downtown area was hit very hard” by graffiti. Removal during that time of the year is more difficult because of the colder temperatures.

Another option is to enlist the graffiti removal machine the city of Springfield obtained earlier this year from the Clark County Solid Waste District. The machine can used on both public and private property.

That program is operated by the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutor Andy Wilson said his crew goes around town, looking for cases of graffiti that can be cleaned up. If prosecution is possible, offenders face arrest and potential conviction on charges of criminal damaging.

“We want to be proactive on this,” Wilson said. “We encourage people in the community to supply information (about graffiti.”)

Another option is send offenders through the local Felony Diversion Program, which receives funding from the state. Through that program, offenders perform community service as ordered by local judges.

Wilson added, “I’m happy about the level of cooperation between the city and county.”

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