Residents meet to discuss graffiti problem

SALEM – A small number of residents met Tuesday to talk about tackling graffiti in Salem, but Councilman Rick Drummond said they’ll need to spread the word to get more people involved.

“People of Salem have to take ownership of this,” he said, noting he’ll give the effort some time before reverting back to the idea of an ordinance to legislate removal of graffiti.

“We need a lot of participation for this to work,” Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey said.

The meeting was a public session for people interested in helping with the graffiti issue. Drummond noted that it was not a meeting of the Rules & Ordinances Committee he chairs on city council, although all three members were present. The other committee members include Dickey and Councilman Clyde Brown. Council President Mickey Cope Weaver also attended and Councilman Dave Nestic was there briefly.

The committee had been talking about a possible ordinance last year that would punish property owners who didn’t take action to remove graffiti from their properties, but the idea was met with some criticism from residents who felt that would be punishing the victims of graffiti.

After much discussion and many meetings, the committee decided to take a more positive approach to handle graffiti and get the people involved, scheduling the public meeting. Eight residents showed up, including Jock Buta of Butech Bliss, the owners of the Fun Factory and representatives of the Design Review Board and Salem-Perry Township Crime Watch.

A second meeting has been set for 6 p.m. Feb. 12, with anyone interested in lending a hand on the graffiti issue invited to attend.

Progress made so far included volunteers agreeing to contact the Salem Police Department to see what type of information they had gathered on graffiti and working on some type of data base where photographs and information could be compiled about graffiti. They also talked about working on the education angle, to get some type of program into the schools to teach kids about graffiti and what it can do to a community. They also talked about putting together a spring cleanup where volunteers can tackle removing as much graffiti as possible, after securing permission of the property owners.

Drummond noted a web site at which explains what communities and property owners can do and provided copies of best practices for communities for graffiti prevention. He said they might not be able to incorporate all of those ideas into their plans, but said some of those practices could be done.

The list included: form a task force; educate; set up a graffiti hotline for reporting graffiti; consider local anti-graffiti laws (which they’ve backed away from at this point); launch adopt-a-spot or adopt-a-block for citizens to adopt an area to keep graffiti free; conduct a local graffiti assessment; keep a data base to track locations of graffiti and keep a record of all graffiti; engage at-risk youth; offer removal kits; provide victim assistance; work with law enforcement; practice crime prevention through environmental design; put graffiti vandals on notice; hold a graffiti summit; focus on hot spots; and work with the court system.

Drummond said the message needs to be sent that “the city’s not going to stand for graffiti anymore. You put it on, we’ll take it off.”

He said in other communities where the focus was placed on removing the graffiti right away, the problem went away over time.

Most of the discussion centered on focusing on certain areas, such as forming a task force, education, removal, prevention, working with law enforcement and the courts and forming a data base to track the graffiti.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at