Graffiti defaces property, costs time and money to correct and, if ignored, reduces property values significantly. The Ahwatukee Board of Management, or ABM, began a new proactive process in January that documents each occurrence of graffiti before repainting the damage. Each graffiti location is photographed and reported to the police. For the first three months of 2011, the ABM reported 19 occurrences, causing nearly $13,000 in damages.
One location in particular has been tagged four times in one month. It's been tagged and repainted three times, and was recently hit by graffiti again.
Much of the graffiti repeats certain phrases or initials, indicating a few individuals or groups of individuals are responsible for numerous tags, as if to ‘show off their presence.' These persistent miscreants have tagged walls, utility boxes, a chain link fence and, most recently, the basketball courts.
Graffiti is criminal damage and anyone caught committing this crime can be charged with a felony. Last year a person was arrested in Phoenix and given six and a half years for multiple counts of criminal damage.
In some places, well-intentioned neighbors have taken it upon themselves to paint over graffiti rather than report it. However, by painting over it without reporting each incident, valuable evidence is covered up. In police work, if something isn't reported or written down, it's as if it didn't happen.
If someone finds graffiti painted on ABM property or common areas, it's important for residents to contact ABM immediately at (480) 893-3502. ABM staff will photograph and document each location and contact the Phoenix Police Department to initiate a police report. Then ABM maintenance staff will paint over the damage as quickly as possible.
Residents of other communities should also contact their HOAs or property management companies to see if they have specific strategies in place for handling graffiti.
Residents outside of ABM are urged to contact the Phoenix police non-emergency number, (602) 262-6151, to report any existing graffiti. After filing the police report, residents are encouraged to contact the Graffiti Busters hotline at (602) 495-7014. Volunteers will eventually be out to paint over the damage, but residents may have to wait one to two weeks before someone responds. Resources are limited.
Hopefully by taking a pro-active stance and partnering with the community, ABM members can help document more than one perpetrator toward a conviction, and also help reduce the problem posed to all of us by graffiti vandalism.
Katrina Shawver has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for 25 years and now serves on the Ahwatukee Board of Management as communications chair. For more information on the ABM, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ahwatukeehoa.com.