Group out to erase citywide graffiti problem

SALEM – Efforts continued this past week in the fight against graffiti, with organizers establishing an email where Salem residents and businesses can report new graffiti.

The email address is

“We’re going to share information with the police department,” said Bill Cartwright of Salem Fun Factory.

Cartwright and his wife Lisa are part of an anti-graffiti group organized by Councilman Rick Drummond earlier this month. Members of the Rules & Ordinances Committee of City Council, which he chairs, previously considered an ordinance to force property owners to remove graffiti within a certain amount of time, but decided to try a more positive, community-based approach first.

Drummond and his fellow committee members, Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey and Councilman Clyde Brown, hosted the first meeting of the anti-graffiti group, noting it was not a meeting of their council committee. Both Drummond and Dickey facilitated the second meeting earlier this week.

Another meeting is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 26 in city hall council chambers. Drummond said all ideas are welcome regarding the graffiti problem.

“We’re hopeful we will avoid the necessity of putting an ordinance in place,” he said.

The idea he’s been stressing is that removal of graffiti needs to be quick, so eventually the people doing the graffiti will get tired of seeing their work disappear and give up. He said that a local building owner kept removing the graffiti on her building shortly after it appeared and it gradually stopped.

During the most recent meeting, the group members reported back progress in the areas of reporting and tracking graffiti, education and clean up.

Cartwright reported he spoke to Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott and learned police have a paper trail regarding graffiti they find or that is reported to them. Information sent to the newly-established email will be sent to the police and the group also will establish its own data base. Tips about graffiti will be shared with area businesses, too, so they know what to do.

For education, there is a national curriculum available and contact was going to be made with the Salem City Board of Education about possibly adopting the curriculum or one similar to it, such as a “Say No to Graffiti” campaign for students.

Drummond said they need to get students and young people “to understand graffiti is not just fun and games.”

For clean up, Drummond said they ideally want to form different teams to tackle different sections of the city, but they’re still figuring out details regarding contacting property owners for permission to legally gain access to their properties to remove graffiti.

The group discussed using community service workers who would need to be supervised and also talked about a reward for anyone who catches somebody doing graffiti.

Salem resident Jim Bonfert suggested getting donations for a reward system.

They also talked about inviting community groups and residents and students to take part in a clean up graffiti day this spring.

“This has to come from the grass roots,” Dickey said.