Thursday, February 05, 2009

Comprehensively addressing graffiti

The 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,, 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."

From Deborah:

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 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.

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At 1:58 PM, February 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The more you squeeze, the more it slips between your fingers"

While I applaud the efforts of those who practice such "mother hen"ism, the truth is quality of life is beauty in the eye of the beholder. Correlating empirical values upon a moral value set will leave you in an eternal struggle for own smug self satisfaction. Take for instance the fact that some graffiti exists only to serve the purpose of wasting the money and efforts of those who wish to "clean" it up. Get it through your thick skulls for once that the beige blobs are the intention; purity violated. It is the modern urban condition of Houston, to deny or repress it, is a Rothkoian kneejerk that demonstrates your ignorance. You paint where the graffiti tells you to.

-Reactionary Dittohead

At 3:28 AM, February 19, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you writing about graffity

At 3:35 AM, February 19, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I propose to you visit my blog to see graffiti at all/

At 6:24 PM, April 19, 2009, Blogger ita darling. said...

I just moved back to houston last year. It's my third stint in this city in my life and i am settling down and making roots.

I moved here from Philadelphia where they have an extensive and pervasive and very successful mural arts program that not only employs people, but gives hundreds if not thousands of kids a summer outlet for something to keep their hands busy.

I have been hibernating a similar idea for a while for houston, and think this might be an appropriate venue to get feedback..

look over what philly has done and let me know if you think this could work in houston- its not only arts education, but also grafitti inhibiting.


At 7:12 PM, April 19, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Sounds great. I'm all for it. We certainly have plenty of boring walls that could use some flair.

At 10:31 AM, July 09, 2009, Anonymous xnomad said...

There is Graffiti over Graffiti all over Houston. Just take a look at these two examples on TC Jester.

At 1:24 PM, July 22, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

An email pass-along:

City of Houston Debuts Graffiti Website

New site provides information and resources on fighting graffiti

Mayor Bill White and Vice Mayor Pro-Tem and Council Member Sue Lovell have announced a new City of Houston website for citizens and organizations that want to fight graffiti in their neighborhoods. The site, provides resources for abating, or painting over, graffiti as well as information on government agencies, and groups that provide positive alternatives to graffiti.

The main section of the site, which will be regularly updated, features information, complete with contact phone numbers, and links to City of Houston departments, other governmental agencies, and community organizations that work to abate graffiti. The site also includes an interactive section, which invites citizens with ideas about dealing with graffiti to leave messages.

Citizens are encouraged to report graffiti by phone to 311. For more information, contact the office of Vice Mayor Pro-Tem and City Council Member Sue Lovell at 832.393.3013 or by e-mail at


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