- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday announced he will propose emergency legislation to crack down on property owners who fail to remove graffiti from their buildings.

The legislation, which Mr. Fenty is expected to introduce July 10, would require property owners to remove the graffiti or grant the city permission to remove it.

“Tourists are driving around, and this is not the District of Columbia we want to represent to the world,” Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, said at a press conference in a graffiti-marked alley on Florida Avenue Northwest. “We can now can say we will be able to remove graffiti in X amount of days.”

Right now, property owners must sign a waiver available online before the city’s Department of Public Works can remove the graffiti, which takes city crews about a month or longer. The mayor aims to cut the time to within eight business days of notification.

Under the proposed legislation, crews would leave notification cards at the properties that detail the owners’ options to either request a graffiti-removal kit or paint voucher,or give the city consent to remove it.

Property owners who refuse may face legal action such as fines.

Not responding to the card would give implied consent to removal, under the legislation.

There were 1,444 reports of graffiti atw the end of May, according to the public works department. The highest number of incidents were reported in Wards 1, 2 and 4, which accounted for 68 percent of all reports.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said $250,000 has been approved for graffiti-proof paint, which is resistant to spray paint, and $100,000 for community murals.

The city also will hire 28 full-time employees for public works projects, including graffiti removal, officials said.

Graffiti tags often indicate gang activity and mark gang territory.

Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Traci Hughes said graffiti also damages community morale.

“It makes people think a neighborhood is not that nice of an area,” she said.

Miss Hughes said police occasionally catch vandals in the act. She did not have numbers available but saidsuch incidents were less common than traffic stops.

According to a release from the mayor’s office, penalties for graffiti include fines up to $5,000.

Mr. Fenty’s initiative includes a proposal to increase the reward from $50 to $500 for information leading to the arrest of a graffiti vandal. The mayor’s office did not say whether there would bestiffer penalties for offenders.

Public works Director William O. Howland Jr. said encouraging property owners to remove graffiti will free city resources to combat vandalism in public spaces, but he still thinks the public needs to be more vigilant.

“The police need some help with having someone call 311 (the police non-emergency line),” he said. “The public has been very responsive in reporting after the fact.”



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