You’ve all seen it as you travel around Evergreen. It’s ugly, and if left intact it can attract more graffiti and even crime. Fences, stop signs, utility boxes and walls are regularly defaced with “taggers’” initials, words and drawings; spray-painted or written in permanent marker. Sometimes difficult-to-remove stickers are applied (known as “slap tags”). Some of it is simply the work of bored teens, a small portion is the more ominous territorial markings of actual gangs; but most is the result of organized “tagging crews”. Such taggers go on “bombing runs” and can quickly trash an entire neighborhood.
Interestingly, Graffiti has become a very popular urban art culture. Well-known “mainstream” companies routinely offer graffiti designs on kids’ clothing, school supplies and other widely available products. Contrast that to another thriving industry focused on the taggers themselves, which includes an entire online community dedicated to providing a forum for taggers to proudly display pictures of their work, extending their “audience” well beyond their local neighborhoods. Graffiti stencils are even sold online, to enable easy replication of trendy tagging messages and popular font styles. But street tagging is not art; most street graffiti is ugly and causes property damage. It is vandalism and every year graffiti clean-up costs the city and its residents thousands of dollars.
So what can residents do?
According to volunteers with the San Jose Anti-Graffiti program, there are 3 things anyone in the community can do to help deter graffiti: Report it, clean it within hours of it appearing, and volunteer to keep even a small area graffiti-free.
First, report it!
The quicker graffiti is removed, the less attractive the location is to taggers. San Jose’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services (PRNS) works with volunteers and the city’s graffiti eradication contractor (Graffiti Protective Coatings, Inc.) to manage graffiti clean-up. To help support their efforts, call their 24 hour hotline at 866-249-0543 to report graffiti. There is also a simple-to-use downloadable mobile phone application for Droid devices and iPhones (search for “San Jose Clean”). A photo of the graffiti can be helpful for police and gang-related graffiti is prioritized. If you see tagging in progress, you can call 911 (dial 408-277-8911 from your cell phone). The SJ Police Department Metro Graffiti unit will attempt to prosecute tagging crews and gangs; there is a graffiti crime report form available on the SJPD website. You can also report anonymously at Crime Stoppers, at 408-947-7867.
Clean it and volunteer!
You can volunteer with the Anti-Graffiti program to “adopt” even something as small as a utility box, and keep that clean. If the graffiti is on your own property, you are responsible for its clean-up. For free paint to paint over the graffiti or for a free anti-graffiti toolkit which includes removal solvent, you can call the SJ Anti-Graffiti Program at 408-277-3208 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also volunteer at this number.
Volunteers with the program have seen first-hand that aggressive clean-up of tagging discourages repeat tagging in that area. And since tagging locations can be sporadic and wide-ranging, the community’s eyes and support are definitely needed. Doing nothing is not an option. Come on, Evergreen! Let’s help keep our community graffiti-free.