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City commission amends graffiti ordinance

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY, Ga. -- City commissioners officially adopted changes to its anti-graffiti ordinance Tuesday -- a move environmental advocates hope will limit the time that graffiti remains within public view.

On a 5-2 vote with Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff and Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell voting in opposition, the commission voted to reduce the number of days that businesses have to remove graffiti from their property or risk having city work crews come and remove it for them.

The ordinance changes came at the request of Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard who, along with Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful Director Judy Bowles, has been monitoring the growing work of graffiti artists around the city.

Under the new ordinance, businesses who are "tagged" with graffiti will have five days from the time code enforcement officials notify them to remove the paint. If they can't or won't, the city then has the authority to step in and clean the property at no charge to the property owner.

Bowles said Friday that state law prevents the city from charging the property owner for the paint or other materials.

"We're told we can't ask for it (paint) because it's essentially payment for the work," Bowles said. "So we're hoping that the business owners will take the initiative and clean it up themselves."

The amendments also bring the city's municipal ordinance in line with state law, as it pertains to graffiti.

The ordinance was passed a day before the Atlanta police department formed a anti-graffiti task force to quell what has been a spike in tagging throughout the city.

"I think that the issue of graffiti has sort of reached a critical mass," Atlanta Police Department spokesman Carlos Campos told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Graffiti really can send a signal that it's OK to do crime here because it looks like no one cares."

Earlier this year, two private property owners who have been the victim of repeated graffiti attacks in the Atlanta's historic old-fourth ward, filed a multi-million suit against Atlanta graffiti artists and taggers seeking to bankrupt those who vandalize property.

The city of Atlanta is also researching an option that would create space for those who are legitimate street artists to demonstrate their craft in a way that isn't deemed to be tagging.

Closer to home, Bowles and crew were out Friday for the second time in two weeks cleaning up graffiti that had been painted throughout the Albany's fourth ward.

"It's the second time this week that we've seen several locations hit overnight," Bowles said. "We've cleaned up six this (Friday) morning and have done 30 sites this month."

Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta said via Facebook Friday that he doesn't know why the vandals are targeting his ward, but acknowledged that it's becoming a serious problem.

"We are already cleaning it up and reviewing surveillance tapes," Marietta wrote. "... hopefully it will be the last time."