Comprehensively addressing graffitiThe City Council Quality of Life committee met today and talked about, among other things, graffiti abatement. You may remember Councilmember Sue Lovell's graffiti op-ed a couple weeks back in the Chronicle (why oh why, chron.com, can't you have real permalinks like the rest of the newspaper web site world?). That op-ed displaced another potential op-ed on the same topic by Deborah January-Bevers, Executive Director of the Quality of Life Coalition, and I'd like to pass it along here.
She and I had a good conversation after the PBS town hall forum, and I'm convinced they're on the right track with the solution - basically a combination of best practices from across the city and country - even incorporating my own suggestion from a while back (definitely my #1 post for ongoing comments over the last 3+ years - and a lot of good insight into the taggers' perspective there - with potential elements of other solutions, like giving graffiti artists legitimate outlets on otherwise boring walls). One solution I haven't heard enough about: why doesn't the city/county/etc. put those graffiti-resistant coatings on obvious target surfaces, like the 59 trench and the bridges that cross it?
One final point before the op-ed: I really like and support the Quality of Life Coalition, because they're focused on real-world solutions to real issues you can point to (trees, landscaping, parks, recreation, bayous, billboards, signage, litter, graffiti) - rather than a lot of vague hand-waving around "we need comprehensive government planning and regulation to solve all problems and create utopia-on-earth."
It’s time once again to step up the anti-graffiti efforts along Houston’s freeways, parks and other public areas.
Numerous businesses and civic advocates work regularly with the City of Houston on private and public property to improve anti-graffiti efforts through increased enforcement against violators and anti-graffiti education. Several years ago, these groups supported the City of Houston’s policy changes and implementation of better graffiti removal processes. The result of increased use of graffiti abatement trucks by the City of Houston and management districts, heightened use of 311 to report graffiti violations, and business participation in anti-graffiti enforcement have proved effective in reducing graffiti in many areas around Houston -- so much so that the errant graffiti taggers have now turned their attention to our freeway systems, parks and other public areas, where reporting and removal is more difficult and costly.
Law-abiding citizens know the multiple ill-effects of graffiti on our community. Graffiti fosters crime, lowers property values, mars our landscape and leaves a bad impression for all who see it. Anti-graffiti education and public awareness play a key role in lessening the number of graffiti “tags” in the community but graffiti is still a taxpayer problem – costing thousands of dollars each year for the City of Houston, TxDOT and surrounding counties to remove it on public property.
While the business and civic communities, through management districts and other organizations play a large role in keeping graffiti out of their respective neighborhoods – many groups work in conjunction with the East End Management District’s very successful Graffiti Abatement Program – areas outside of a management district are still large targets for taggers.
The Quality of Life Coalition, comprised of more than 85 endorsing organizations in the Houston area, has long supported implementation of Best Management Practices in anti-litter and anti-graffiti policies. We strongly support increased anti-graffiti efforts by the City of Houston, TxDOT and Harris County through public outreach, education and awareness programs, crime-stopper rewards, criminal enforcement and use of more graffiti abatement trucks. We also encourage continued use of Public Service Announcements under the Stop Trashing Houston campaign (see www.stoptrashinghouston.org) and development of an City of Houston-hosted anti-graffiti resource website, which has proven successful in reducing graffiti in other cities.
If indeed our region’s current success with anti-graffiti efforts is causing graffiti taggers to move to new areas – such as our freeways, parks and other public areas -- then a coordinated approach is needed between the City of Houston, TxDOT and Harris County. Reducing graffiti is a critical component of continuing to improve our region’s quality of life.
Deborah January-Bevers is the Executive Director of the Quality of Life Coalition.
Update 7/22/09: A new City of Houston graffiti web site.