Update on Lincoln’s graffiti battle

Mayor Chris Beutler announced today that 94 percent of the graffiti cases reported over the last 14 months has been cleared.  The City changed its approach to graffiti with the hiring of a  Graffiti Prevention Coordinator in June 2009.  Since then, 1,159 of the reported 1,232 cases have been cleared.  

“Much of the credit for the success of this program goes to the people of Lincoln,” Mayor Beutler said.  “More residents are reporting graffiti and property owners are removing graffiti sooner.  Our efforts are even more of a success when you consider the tremendous cost savings.  Our new program operates on just 6 percent of the previously estimated cost.” 

The City's graffiti ordinance passed in 2006 requires property owners to remove graffiti within 15 days of City notification.  If that deadline is not met, the City can remove the graffiti at the property owner's expense.  Those who don't reimburse the City face a lien on their property, but the owner does not have to clear the debt until the property sells.  The cost of  funding City graffiti removal was estimated  at $408,000 a year. 

 Under the new process, the City sends a letter and postage- paid reply card to graffiti victims explaining the negative impact of graffiti, encouraging quick removal and offering volunteer assistance.  The program is budgeted for $25,000 a year. 

William Carver, the Graffiti Coordinator with Keep Lincoln and Lancaster County Beautiful, said the number of cases reported in the last seven months of the program is up 17  percent compared to the first seven months.  The Lincoln Police Department reports that 23 people – five adults and 18 juveniles  – have been arrested for 69 cases of graffiti vandalism so far this year.   The case of one of those convicted was routed  through Lancaster County Court where more severe penalties are allowed under a new State law.   

Carver said the types of graffiti being reported also have changed.  In the last seven months of the program 25 percent of the graffiti was gang-related, down from 46 percent in the first seven months.  Over the same time period, the percentage of graffiti classified as “hip-hop” increased from 32 to 46 percent.  About 1.7 percent of the graffiti reported in the last seven months was classified as hate-related.

The new process came out of the Mayor's Stronger Safer Neighborhoods Initiative based on an idea from one of its partner groups, the Lincoln Policy Network.   Mayor Beutler said the continued involvement of neighborhoods is needed to prevent graffiti in new public areas like Union Plaza. 

“We know that the presence of graffiti can encourage more vandalism as well as other types of crime,” Beutler said. “Getting it reported and removed quickly is very important, and we need the public to help us keep this problem under control.”

 To report graffiti on your own property, call the police non-emergency line at 441-6000.  For graffiti on City property or someone else's property, contact Carver at 441-4690 or wcarver@lincoln.ne.gov.  Graffiti also can be reported on the City online ACTION center at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: graffiti). 

KLLCB is affiliated with Keep America Beautiful, which has a mission to engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environments.