- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

The District is offering free paint and other supplies to help remove graffiti scrawled on private property across the city — but residents will have to supply the muscle.

The program is part of a graffiti-removal program Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, announced in June and will be implemented through the city’s Department of Public Works.

Property owners can get the supplies through vouchers issued by the agency, then redeem them at two stores for free paint, primer, brushes, pans, rollers, drop clothes and graffiti scrubs.

Though the program will help clean blighted properties, D.C. Council member Jim Graham said yesterday the burden should not fall completely upon property owners.

“I think we have to put some of these guys in jail,” said Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat. “We need to send the message: This is a serious crime, and people should go to jail.”

The Metropolitan Police Department does not keep statistics on graffiti arrests. The criminal penalties for applying graffiti include fines of $250 to $5,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

Public works officials had 1,444 reports of graffiti from January through May. Nearly 70 percent of them, or 984 reports, originated in Wards 1, 2 and 4, which are primarily in Northwest. Officials could not provide updated statistics yesterday for the summer months but acknowledge the number of reports increased.

“The voucher program also will relieve some of the financial burden that causes residential- and business-property owners to delay removing the graffiti themselves,” said William O. Howland Jr., director of public works. “Offering property owners the voucher for paint and other materials is a fast way to remove graffiti, which is a rising problem in our city.”

Vouchers can be redeemed at McCormick Paints at 15th and P streets Northwest and at Duron Paints at 14th and Clifton streets Northwest.

City officials said 42 businesses and residents have applied for vouchers since the program started Sept. 10. The number to apply is 202/727-1000.

Mr. Graham initiated a program this summer in which nearly $2 million will be set aside to pay former inmates to remove graffiti. The program, also administered through the Public Works Department, will employ 27 of the roughly 48,000 unemployed former inmates who live in the District. They will help the agency’s crew of six, full-time graffiti-removers.

A Graham staffer said yesterday lawmakers are still working on the policy, and the money should be available by mid-October. The money is in the fiscal 2008 budget, which also includes $250,000 for graffiti-proof paint for public buildings.

Mr. Fenty’s legislation this summer also called for reducing the time allotted for residents and city workers to remove graffiti.

Right now, property owners must sign an online waiver before the Public Works Department can remove the graffiti, which takes city crews about a month or longer. The mayor wants 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 could face legal action such as fines.

Not responding to the card would give implied consent to removal under the legislation. The council has not addressed the proposal since returning this month from summer break.

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