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Grappling with Graffiti: What’s Next

Grappling with Graffiti: What’s Next?

by Stan Penkin

Graffiti has become an ever more prevalent part of our Portland street scene in recent years, but what’s the future look like?

Portland’s Graffiti Abatement Program (GAP), under the city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI), had been enormously successful in combating graffiti across the city. With diminished city resources over the last few years, the Program was unable to adequately address graffiti remediation and education. As a result, there has been an increase in graffiti, including an alarming uptick in hate graffiti since the November election. Adding to the problem has been the lack of enforcement due to the dissolution of the Police Bureau’s Graffiti Enforcement Unit (GIU). Even if graffiti vandals are caught in the act, there is little, if any, follow up to charge them with multiple counts of damage they have committed over time –  so punishment is negligible, and recidivism is a given.  Restoring even one officer to a graffiti investigator position would be a significant step to address the increase in graffiti vandalism.

On a positive note, there is newfound hope as Mayor Ted Wheeler recognizes the importance of livability issues in our communities. This year’s city budget tripled the GAP budget which will greatly help remediation efforts. However, the GIU still remains unfunded. Without enforcement and prosecutions, we can only partially combat the proliferation of graffiti.

At a recent GAP sponsored workshop that included many stakeholders and city officials, a survey of the participants revealed that the concern over the lack of enforcement was the most significant issue. Led by the Program’s coordinator, Juliette Muracchioli, various approaches to the graffiti issue were discussed. A 2017 Workshop Report has been issued.