A weekend graffiti tagger”s scrawled handiwork may linger in the downtown area until mid-May when volunteers can clean it up, Columbus Police Department Capt. Fred Shelton said Wednesday afternoon.
The letters “SIC” were spray-painted in blue on various downtown surfaces several nights ago. Locations affected included The Dispatch and the U.S. Post Office on Main Street, Shadowlawn Bed and Breakfast on Second Avenue South, and the new Convention and Visitors Bureau building behind the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center.
Shelton said he will draw volunteers from the United Way”s volunteer work program and the police department”s Explorers program to handle “graffiti detail.” Clean-up will involve painting over the blighted areas. If private property is involved, property owners will be required to sign a waiver releasing the police department from liability.
Shelton said in the past he”s tried products like Goof Off Graffiti Remover, a heavy duty household product specially formulated to dissolve graffiti without damaging the underlying surface, but he said most of the time the department prefers to cover it with a fresh coat of paint that matches the original paint as closely as possible.
The last “graffiti detail” was held in January.
So why isn”t graffiti cleanup a responsibility of the Public Works Department?
That”s a question Ward Two City Councilman Joseph Mickens wants answered as well.
“I would think it should be (cleaned up by Public Works),” Mickens said Wednesday afternoon. “This is news to me.”
But in Starkville, they have a different solution: The police department makes the mischief-makers remove their “artwork” as part of their sentence.
Graffiti is vandalism and is punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the property value involved.
“We don”t have much of a problem,” Starkville Police Department Sgt. Chadd Garnett said Wednesday. “But we did have some pictures two years ago…flamingos, a space man from Star Wars…we knew it was probably going to be an art student. This was more to show off art skills than to try to destroy something.”
As far as Shelton is concerned, the best prevention is intervention.
“If somebody”s just hanging out late at night and they kind of look suspicious, especially more than one juvenile, let us come down and check them out,” he said. “When they vandalize the city, it makes our city look bad.”
To report suspicious behavior, residents are encouraged to call 911.
To report incidences of graffiti and request cleanup, citizens should call the police department at 244-3500.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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