By Karen Hery

It’s not just parents that breath a sigh of relief when kids are back in school. Graffiti clean up coordinators get a break from the peak season for tagging and a chance to regroup. Summer months with long days and less organized activities for youth create more opportunities for reckless property vandalism.

Graffiti is a year-round nuisance and fall is one of the best times for clean up efforts large and small.

One of the people front and center in city wide efforts to prevent and address graffiti is Juliette Muracchioli. She stepped into her role with the city of Portland’s graffiti abatement program organizing graffiti clean ups last May.

At her fingertips are a list of contractors the city and individuals can use for professional clean up services; where to get the best wet wipe on the market for removing graffiti and knowledge of what sealants to put on murals and other surfaces for easier clean up.

When Muracchioli isn’t in her office, she’s out at community meetings, like Belmont Business Association’s monthly meeting, giving talks on graffiti prevention.

Her number one piece of advice . . .

Don’t Let It Linger.  Quick removal is step one in having a graffiti free environment. One tag attracts another. Whenever possible, she recommends removing graffiti within the first 24 to 48 hours.

Before removal, Muracchioli knows first hand that taking a moment to report tags makes a difference.  The police borough’s one graffiti investigator uses reporting data to match up common images that help find and prosecute Portland’s most prolific taggers.

Just reporting the location of graffiti is helpful and photographing tags is especially helpful.  Apps and online links have made it easier to get this information into the right hands.

Muracchioli knows that everyone has a preferred media they feel most comfortable using.  Just calling 503.823.4824, noting location and contact information in case questions arise is a great start.

Downloading and using the free PDXReporter app on a smartphone is quick and easy.  Another fast action is texting pictures and locations to 503.823.8700. Other options are to email a picture and location to graffiti@portlandoregon.gov, or report online at portlandoregon.gov/oni/62884.

In some cases, reporting brings restitution directly back to homeowners and businesses.  Other cities have studied Portland’s approach to graffiti abatement, including our deputy district attorney’s commitment to a case by case approach to restitution.

Restitution amounts in Portland depend on the offender’s age, criminal history and ability to pay for damages done.

Muracchioli is well-versed in the ins and outs of holding property owners accountable for timely graffiti clean-up.

If a report of tagging from phone, email, app and online sources includes the information that graffiti is piling up without any signs of an active clean up effort, a search is done through her office to find the best contact for the property. A letter is sent that gives 10 days to clean the site and offers contact information for professional clean up resources.

In a minority of cases, when there is no response or a refusal to respond, an administrative warrant is issued and city-directed private contractors are sent out at the owner’s expense.

Volunteers removing graffiti on Steele Bridge

Volunteers removing graffiti on Steele Bridge

Not everyone has the funds and resources to quickly address graffiti and Muracchioli coordinates monthly clean-ups through Central City Concern where over a dozen clients in their rehabilitation program help clean up for small, cash strapped businesses and local non-profit organizations.

Her office provides guidelines and support especially for projects on public property and  she can often provide graffiti clean-up kits and occasionally, extra volunteers.

Community involvement is what keeps Muracchioli fired up and motivated in her job.

“Seeing people get together to take ownership to make their community more livable, makes me really proud,” she says.

Those wipes she recommends for safe removal on most surfaces? They do double duty in her world.  She goes home everyday to her 10 month old and almost 5 year old. They’ve been known to launch a few graffiti projects of their own.

Resources: For remove-all wipes: graffitiremovalinc.com/our-products/graffiti-safewipes

City recommended graffiti removal contractors: portlandoregon.gov/oni/article/524642. 

To give input to the city of Portland’s graffiti abatement efforts, Portland’s Graffiti Task Force meets every month on the 3rd Thursday from 9:30-11 am.  Interested parties are invited to call 503.823.9666 for information and the meeting location.