Downtown businesses and city work together to clean graffiti

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COLUMBIA - The city is working with businesses and property owners to clean it up graffiti. 

"It seems like it goes in waves. There's always graffiti downtown. There's always going to be new tags here and there. Over the last few months, there was just a rash of vandalism and tags," said Neighborhood Communications Coordinator Bill Cantin.

The city has developed a graffiti kit that includes graffiti removal spray, rags and wire brushes. These are free of charge for businesses that request them. 

"This latest go around, we were really proactive in working with the businesses and letting them know we had this stuff available," he said.

Cantin said that the city has has seen positive feedback. The kits work on most surfaces, he said, but with the natural, old brick, it is a little more difficult.

When it comes to the natural brick, owner of D&M Sound Anne Moore said it was expensive and difficult to remove the graffiti when she was tagged. 

"It's actually a considerable amount, several hundred dollars just for three spots. At this point we have not had to repaint, if we would have had to repainted it would have been several thousand dollars," she said.

Moore does not really approve of the perpatrators doings, but she is impressed thus far with what the city has done thus far with the graffiti clean up. 

"I am really pleased to see the support of so many people trying to get to remove it and get the downtown are cleaned up. No one wants to see a downtown full of graffiti," she said. 

However, not all businesses have the same outlook on the graffiti.

"It is just something that is going to happen when you live in an urban environment and you got kids running around. I just don't see any way of really preventing it from happening. I think that the litter in the streets of Columbia is a lot bigger of an eye sore, personally than the graffiti. It represents a much more serious problem than just spray paint on the walls," said John Gilbreth, owner of Pizza Tree.

The city has an ordinance that requires businesses to repair defacement, which includes graffiti and vulgar language on buildings, or face fines. Cantin said that the city has not had to use the ordinance on any property owners. 

"We would rather work with the property owners to get it taken care of instead of taking someone to court," he said. 

Some new ordinances have been proposed designed to prevent taggers from getting supplies.

"You can restrict sales to spray paint to people under 21. We've presented these kind of proposals to city council a couple times in the past and there really is no interest and there hasn't been so far," he said. 

The police have found it always difficult to find people that tag areas, and it's a process that takes time. 

"It's not something we like to see, but it is a difficult crime trend to solve," said Sergeant Chad Gooch of the Columbia Police Department.

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