Dallas Receives National Award for Graffiti Program

Last May, nearly 700 volunteers from across the city participated in Dallas’ first city-wide graffiti wipe out, cleaning up over 37,000 square feet of graffiti. It was a great event, and as I’ve mentioned in other blogs, it was an amazing combination of residents, city staff, community organizations, and businesses.

Well, all that hard work paid off. Not only is our city cleaner, not only did we begin a great program that we will organize again this year, but to top it all off, we were awarded FIRST PLACE in the national Keep America Beautiful “Graffiti Hurts” competition! The team will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and a FlashCAM-770 graffiti deterrent system to help stop graffiti in chronically hit areas. The camera senses motion up to 100 feet away, automatically takes pictures of the perpetrators, and plays a loud message, warning the intruder to leave.

Other bits of good news: One of the challenges we faced when I took office was that Dallas had no comprehensive plan to address graffiti. My plan was to tackle the problem in three ways: to bring together all aspects of the Dallas community to hold an annual graffiti clean up and show that folks from all across Dallas want a clean city, and secondly, to make sure that city departments are addressing graffiti in a concerted way and working together instead of haphazardly, and third, to create a new city clean up program modelled on Phoenix’s program.

In Phoenix, the city will clean up graffiti on private property FOR FREE. (If color-matching is involved, there is a charge.) What a great program! Although they spend $1.4M a year on graffiti clean up, they started small, and that’s what we’re doing. I was able to put about $200,000 in this year’s budget, and we’ll soon be hiring the graffiti cleaners and rolling out the new program. I’m hopeful that this will help us clean up our city, deter crime, and improve property values in areas that have been plagued by graffiti.

Congrats again to everyone who worked so hard on the Graffiti Wipe Out. Special thanks go to Keep Dallas Beautiful members, Leadership Dallas Class of 2006 alumni, the Meadows Foundation, Sherwin Williams Paint, Carraba’s Restaurants, Coca Cola, and city employees Ray Irvine, Dionne Driscoll, Josh Hathaway, Lori Frauli, Cheryl Cornish, Jennifer Richie, and Kathleen Davis.

Great Graffiti News!

I’ve got two — no make that THREE — great pieces of news about our efforts to wipe out graffiti in Dallas.

First, for the last year, I’ve been working to get Dallas to develop a comprehensive plan to address graffiti, along with hiring a clean-up crew (patterned on Phoenix’s) that will assist in cleaning up graffiti. I’m very pleased to announce that we were successful in getting this program included in next year’s budget!

The new program will provide a city crew to clean up graffiti on PRIVATE property. Before, if your fence were spray-painted by a vandal, you’d come home to find not just the graffiti, but also a notice from the city telling you to clean up the graffiti or get fined. So you essentially get punished for being a victim of a crime.

With the new program, you would also get a note explaining that you have the option of having the city clean up the graffiti for you, FOR FREE. That’s right, FREE. A great, and much-needed city service that will help clean up Dallas. Special thanks go to Gary Griffith for working with me to advocate for this program.

SECOND great piece of news: We’re looking forward to a great graffiti wipe out in East Dallas in October:

Saturday, October 14, 2006
9 am -12 noon
DPD East Dallas Storefront, 4545 Bryan St.

We’ll be cleaning up the area bounded by Central, Mockingbird, Skillman down to Gaston, over to Abrams/Columbia/Main, to Haskell.

THIRD, if the satisfaction of knowing you played a key role in cleaning up East Dallas isn’t enough to get you out there, you should know that Carrabba’s Italian Grill Lakewood has AGAIN generously decided to serve us lunch. That alone is worth spending a few hours cleaning up graffiti!

For more information, contact:
Lisa Fullerton
Graffiti Abatement Coordinator
(214) 670-5647

Graffiti Wipe Out a Great Success!

I am so pleased to report that Dallas’ first-ever citywide Graffiti Wipe Out on May 20 was a great success! The event exceeded our expectations, with more than 680 volunteers cleaning up more than 200 vandalized sites across the city, and more than 37,000 square feet of graffiti.

Since last fall I’ve been working to create a comprehensive graffiti program for Dallas. Unlike cities like Phoenix and Fort Worth, which spend respectively $1.2 million and $.5 million every year to clean up graffiti, Dallas spends next to nothing. We also don’t have a coordinated effort to attack this problem, which not only makes our city look dirty, but increases crime and reduces property values.

Last fall I pulled together various city departments to look at ways to attack this problem — code, police, legal and environmental — and we investigated other cities best practices. I also sought advice from community leaders who have done an incredible job organizing neighborhood clean-ups: Jeff Bryan, Bill Peterson, Sandy Graham and Danny Chandler. Since January, we’ve been meeting every other week for a couple of hours, then starting in March, every week, to plan.

Because the city couldn’t afford to suddenly undertake a $1.2 million graffiti program like Phoenix, we decided to try to break it out into phases. Our first phase was finding a community partner that would help us raise funds for equipment and help us organize a citywide graffiti cleanup effort to raise awareness and get people energized about the project. The Leadership Dallas class of 2006 stepped up to the plate, and was remarkable in their dedication, raising more than $100,000 in donations and inkind contributions. Now we have two well-equipped trucks with camper locks for city employees to use in abating graffiti, as well as supplies from Sherwin Williams.

Next, we looked at ways we could improve our city ordinances. We examined laws from other cities that had successfully addressed graffiti, and earlier this month we adopted an ordinance that makes carrying graffiti implements (spray paint, fat markers, glass cutters) a misdemeanor with a fine up to $500. Graffiti vandals are great at not getting caught, and this puts one more tool in the hands of our police officers. We then organized the Graffiti Wipe Out Day held May 20.

During the Wipe Out, I caught a vandal red-handed as he defaced a wall that one of our teams had just cleaned up in Deep Ellum. Police arrested him, and he was charged with vandalism. The Wipe Out was a great event, and I want to thank State Representative Rafael Anchia, DISD board member Adam Medrano, and Councilmembers Medrano, Griffith and Koop for participating.

But this is only the beginning of our efforts to clean up our city and make it safer. Our next step is two-fold. First, develop an infrastructure and process in our city to effectively help clean up graffiti on private property like we did with the Wipe Out. Phoenix is largely graffiti- free, and they have city employees that clean up graffiti on private property. Second, tighten our graffiti clean-up rules. Some property owners never clean up their property, and graffiti begets more graffiti. On the other hand, if graffiti is cleaned up within 24 to 48 hours, it almost never returns. We must get property owners to clean up their property, and develop a system to help them do so.

Thanks again to everyone who participated. I hope to do a citywide event again next year, and hope you’ll join us.

Join Dallas’ Biggest Graffiti Paint Out Ever!

Join me, Councilmembers Pauline Medrano and Gary Griffith, and Mayor Laura Miller as we join together to attack graffiti in East Dallas.

This will be the first of two large-scale graffiti paint-outs for our city. Graffiti negatively affects our public safety, our property values, and our quality of life, so please participate and help improve our city!

Saturday, March 25
9AM to Noon
3003 Swiss Avenue at Oak Street (Central Square Park)

Wear your paint clothes and bring sun block and bug spray.

Meet back afterwards for lunch provided by the Meadows Foundation and Carraba’s.

For more info:
Scot Williams
scotw3 @ swbell.net
(214) 793-1881

Eliminating Graffiti

I hate graffiti. It makes our city look terrible, it makes our neighborhoods seem unsafe, it discourages economic development, and it promotes crime.

A few years ago, my husband and I started a graffiti removal program in the M Streets to get rid of graffiti on street signs and other public areas. In the last couple of months, East Dallas residents Jeff Bryan, Sandy Graham, and Bill Peterson have organized graffiti removal days with volunteers.

Graffiti removal in Dallas is dependent upon volunteers because the City doesn’t have a real graffiti abatement program. Other cities, such as Fort Worth and Phoenix, have very successful programs. I asked City staff to brief the Quality of Life Council Committee on how those programs are run so we can look at adopting those graffiti abatement measures.

On Nov. 3, the Quality of Life Committee received a briefing, and the information was very enlightening:

  • If graffiti is removed within 24-48 hours, the likelihood that it will return is almost zero.
  • Most graffiti in Dallas is done by “taggers” who consider themselves “artistes,” not by gangs.
  • The Phoenix program costs $1.2M a year and is paid for through city funds and federal grants (community development block grants). It includes 8 full-time employees who go out and remove graffiti, a portable paint-matching machine (so there are no blotchy patches of over-paint), a non-toxic chemical removal system, and high-pressure sprayers.

(Read the briefing)

Because the City’s budget has already been approved for this fiscal year (Oct. 2005-Sept. 2006), we don’t have the money allocated to do this type of extensive program right now. However, I have asked city staff to investigate creating a database of volunteers, creating a database of release forms from businesses that are frequently tagged (allowing volunteers to remove the graffiti), and having a full-time staff member who could organize graffiti abatement days and acquire supplies.

I am also investigating ways that businesses in our city can assist with this effort. I met today with some business leaders to discuss a more comprehensive graffiti abatement program, and hope to have some good news in the coming weeks.

Graffiti Paint Out in East Dallas

Over 40 volunteers turned out today to help rid East Dallas of graffiti. Swiss Avenue resident Jeff Bryan organized the paint-out to help us take back our community from vandalism. Graffiti is not just a nuisance. It lowers our property values, it’s unsightly, it makes it less likely that businesses will want to relocate in our area, and there is a direct correlation with crime. I will be working with Jeff to develop a pilot program in our area to clean up graffiti, which, if successful, I would like to see us take city-wide.

We were able to clean up about 6 sites — buildings, fences, a community basketball court — that had all been hard hit by taggers and gang graffiti. We painted most of the sites, but we also had a company called Pro-Chem volunteer their expertise and products to chemically remove graffiti from a community church’s concrete basketball court. Check out the pictures.

Residents from East Dallas came out in force, as well as city employees including Kathy Davis (Code Inspection Director), Gary Middleton (Code Inspection), several police officers, and other city staff. Many thanks for making this event a success.

Jeff would like to see the clean-up effort on a monthly basis, so stay tuned for our next paint out!