9OYS Continuing Coverage
Tough on graffiti? The city's efforts to crack down on offenders
Reporter: Marcelino Benito
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -Two days after 9OYS highlighted the widespread graffiti at the Airport Wash, the city is already working to clean it up. But 9OYS wants to know if the city's graffiti enforcement is working? Is it deterring repeat taggers? At least one council member doesn't think so.
"If it wasn't for the neighbors stepping up and helping, this place would be a complete trash heap graffiti wise," Ward 6 councilman Steve Kozachik said.
Graffiti Protective Coatings, the company charged by the City of Tucson for cleaning up graffiti, takes care of 4,500 to 5,000 work orders a month. It comes at a hefty cost to taxpayers, more than 1 million dollars a year. Ricardo Aguilar and his work crew spent Friday afternoon cleaning up this wall in midtown. He says they'll be back to clean it up again within a week.
9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito went to the City Prosecutor's office for answer. They could not go on camera today, but they tell 9OYS in the last year, they've cracked down with tougher standards. Repeat offenders can now face up to 180 days in jail, 36 months probation and $2,500 in fines. This set of plea guidelines was presented to Mayor and Council on May 8th. But Kozachik says they should be even tougher.
"The court can't be the bottleneck or the weak link in this system," he said. "We have got to make sure that the courts have got the staffing, the personnel, and the mandate from the city council, from Tucson Police, and from the neighborhood associations that we're tired of this. Enough of this."
Tucson Court records show that the number of graffiti charges filed have fluctuated up and down over the last four years. There were 93 in 2008. As many as 181 in 2009. So far in 2012, there have been 44.
Graffiti Protective Coatings says the number of work orders has remained steady over the last few months despite tougher measures.
"If they (GPC) were relying on us to make a call every time we saw graffiti, they'd be working 24/7," Kozachik said. "That's how bad the problem is in this city."