City reports slight decrease in graffiti activity

Marci Shatzman (Chicago Tribune)
July 28, 2010
There’s a slight uptick in graffiti reports in West Boca, but in the city of Boca Raton, reports of the unsightly scrawls are down.

“In comparison to last year, we have actually seen a slight decrease,” Mark Economou, public information manager for Boca Raton Police Services wrote in an e-mail. “The numbers have been steady month to month.”

The district commander attributes the rise in West Boca to a new reporting and tracking system. “It is not an increase in incidents,” said Capt. Matt Eisenberg, commander of Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office District 7 in West Boca. Det. Jamie Roussel, the deputy in charge of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Graffiti Unit, said the increase is also due to children out of school and an aggressive law-enforcement crackdown. His unit handles all the graffiti complaints in the county jurisdictions. City police investigate the incidents in the city.

No place is safe from tagging, the term law enforcement uses. Graffiti turns up on public, private and commercial property. Cable TV and electric utility boxes with their smooth, flat surfaces are vulnerable targets for tagging with markers or spray paint, according to Roussel.

“A majority of the graffiti has been on commercial property and things like Dumpsters, bus stops, Florida Power & Light boxes, CSX controllers and Florida Department of Transportation walls,” Economou wrote.

Unless the graffiti is cleaned up promptly, ideally within 24 hours, the site can become an inviting canvas, Roussel said.

In the city, “code enforcement makes contact with the businesses and property owners and arranges to have the graffiti removed as quickly as possible,” Economou said. “If it is FDOT property (I-95 walls and bridges) we call their maintenance office and request that they put in a work order to have it removed.”

The cleanup jobs the city handles for graffiti on city property are usually done by the streets or recreation services departments, occasionally by the utilities department, according to Mike Woika, blankistant city manager. Those tasks are not tracked, so there’s no way to know how much graffiti eradication costs the city every year, he said.

Juveniles and young adults who tag for recognition are usually the culprits, Roussel said. He’s conducting an investigation involving people in their 20s. “We are working on a crew of six that are responsible for thousands of dollars of damage to property in Palm Beach County,” Roussel said. One of them lives in Boca Raton, and he did not say whether it was a city or county address. There have been no arrests so far [as of July 23], he said.

Although most of the taggers are individuals, but there are some gangs tagging in West Boca, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office incident reports. But that’s not the case in the city. “A majority of the taggers we have identified have been local youths residing in our City and are not affiliated with a gang,” Economou wrote. “They are typically juveniles, charged with misdemeanors, which is why we don’t release the information to the public.”

Generally they are charged with criminal mischief. “Most of the arrests are juveniles charged with misdemeanors, so we try to get them into our first offender program,” Economou wrote. “As part of their contract with our program, they must negotiate restitution to the victim. If they refuse or fail to comply, the cases are sent to the State Attorney for traditional prosecution.”

Restitution would be ordered by a judge during sentencing, he added.

Economou described the graffiti problem in the city as “an issue that we deal with on a consistent basis.”

The city stays on top of it by “documenting tags and locations of tags and creating intelligence bulletins to share with all of our officers and other agencies,” he wrote. “When taggers are identified, additional intelligence bulletins are created so that the officers on the street have knowledge of who might be tagging in a particular area.

“The officer blankigned to graffiti investigations shares information with other law-enforcement agencies,” Economou wrote. “Palm Beach County School Board Police Department has been a big help.”

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2 Comments for “City reports slight decrease in graffiti activity”

  1. bo jangles

    well this article was really worth my time, im glad i am now more informed. But while we are at it- why dont we conduct a 10 paged crime investigation spotlighting whoever is spitting gum on to public sidewalks? I heard Public Urination was also a serious rising problem in West Boca- we need to have more intel on that subject. If YOU or anyone has any vital information regarding jay walking, littering or the selling of lemon aid without a license; please call the Police Department immediately.

  2. Jerry's Kid <<= beware of this gang. It's a violent, homosexual graffiti gang. If you see normel ANYWHERE, run for your life!

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