LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There are more graffiti cases so far this year than in all of 2016, and the newly formed Metro Graffiti Team is working in overdrive to tackle Louisville’s problem.

The Graffiti Team was created in April 2017, and leaders said they’re still figuring out how to best operate. It’s comprised of members from Metro Department of Codes and Regulations, Public Works and Parks & Recreation.

“We always want to be efficient,” said Codes and Regulations deputy director Donald Robinson. “There’s a lot of graffiti out there, and we want to make sure we’re making the proper rounds.”

According to city statistics, the number of cases with graffiti violations are on the rise:

  • 2013: 866 cases
  • 2014: 1,012 cases
  • 2015: 957 cases
  • 2016: 1,023 cases
  • 1/1/17-8/28/17: 1,091 cases

Robinson said the team will respond to public complaints of graffiti. Inspectors scour the city, document graffiti and mail notices. That notice alerts property owners to the graffiti and states how long they will have to clean it up before being fined or cited.

The Graffiti Team is focused on abandoned homes, but the vandalism knows no boundaries.

“You have business owners, you have a lot of other properties that are being vandalized, too,” Robinson said. “So honoring the property maintenance code, we have to cite everyone. And it’s a tough conversation, because we know the property owners are not vandalizing their particular properties.”

Stephen Pate got one of those notifications and said it feels like a punch to the gut. His building on Portland Avenue has been tagged multiple times over the years. At one point, there was graffiti from the ground up to the roof. Pate said it took an estimated $7,000 to clean that up.

“For a lot of us paying cash to do repairs and putting in our own sweat equity and all that, the crime is no different than if someone walked up to us on the street and hit us over the head and stole our wallet,” Pate said.

Pate said many in Portland are working to revitalize the area. It takes lots of time and money to restore the historic buildings, making graffiti all the more painful to stomach.

“You get victimized once with the initial crime, and then a second time by Metro Code Enforcement,” Pate said.

Recently, Pate’s building was tagged again on the same wall as before. He got a letter from the city stating he needed to clean it up within 30 days. Pate said, by then, he had already made an effort to remove the graffiti.

He said he understands the need to notify property owners to clean up, but he said the system doesn’t always work the way it should.

“The problem lies where several people here have been fined automatically,” Pate said.

Robinson said the city is very willing to work with property owners to agree on a fair amount of time needed to remove the graffiti. Property owners need to call the inspector listed on their paperwork to start that dialogue, he said.

“It’s not us against the citizens,” Robinson said. “It’s how can we work together to get this particular problem abated.”

The department does notify LMPD whenever inspectors see graffiti that is gang-related. But graffiti is very rarely ever tracked back to a suspect.

To report graffiti to the Department of Codes and Regulations, call 311.

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