SALEM -The Rules & Ordinances Committee of city council discussed what the city government and the community can do about graffiti, but took no action Tuesday.
Committee Chair Councilman Rick Drummond said they'll have more meetings to come up with ways to address some of the issues raised. He and his committee members, Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey and Councilman Clyde Brown, all stressed that the community needs to be involved in the solution because it's a community problem.
"It's not going away," Drummond said.
In his research, he said he learned what's been successful in fighting graffiti in other places is tackling it upon seeing it, such as addressing the removal of graffiti from buildings within 24 to 48 hours of it happening.
He explained that the people doing the graffiti like to see it up there and like their friends to see it. If it's gone within 24 to 48 hours and they have to keep doing it, at some point they're going to stop or move on. He said he would like to perhaps see an ordinance to require property owners to address the issue of removal within that time frame. Other communities have a paint bank where property owners can go to get the paint to cover over graffiti.
Another point he made was ensuring if someone is caught, to vigorously prosecute them and pursue any penalties, including going after the parents to cover the costs if the offender is a juvenile.
"I think it's a matter of community pride," Brown said, adding it's a matter of people working together.
Dickey said she would like to see the city approach the courts about maybe using community service as a punishment. If they're able to get out there and put up the graffiti, they can go back out there and take it down.
Drummond said ordinances in other parts of the country make it illegal to possess items for graffiti.
Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Audrey Null noted that close to 100 pieces of graffiti have been found in the city, with Drummond saying the city should maintain a data base of the graffiti for future reference, if someone is caught doing something, to see if it's similar to what's been done before. Salem-Perry Township Crime Watch Director Roe Haskins said his group is doing what they can with what they have during their patrols, but with graffiti, offenders do it quick and they're gone. He said those who are caught need to answer for it.
City Law Director Brooke Zellers suggested that maybe the money from fines for criminal damaging and criminal mischief related to graffiti could be put in a fund for paint or cleanup of graffiti so the burden doesn't fall on the property owners. He also said defendants of any crimes ordered to complete community service could be used to do clean up graffiti, as long as the city gets the permission of property owners.
In other business, the committee tweaked its recommendation to send council an ordinance vacating a section of Butcher Road from the cul de sac near Pershing to East State Street. The ordinance will also cover returning an easement to the same property owner which had been for access to a city lift station from property off of Oak Street.
The vacation of the land had been a condition of the property owner who donated land to the city to extend Pershing Street to Butcher Road. The parcel of land was to be returned to the owner if the city chose not to extend Butcher Road back up to State Street.
Drummond said the ordinance will be written to meet the city's obligations under the agreement with the property owner as part of a property swap.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org