By Johnny Flores, Jr.
COACHELLA, Calif, — In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the City of Coachella budgeted $91,372 to combat the costly problem of graffiti or “tagging,” as it commonly known.
But it doesn’t have to be this way going forward.
“The escalating graffiti problem that we are currently experiencing is becoming very costly financially to the city,” said Mayor Eduardo Garcia. “It is money that could be used to promote public art and create spaces for artists to express themselves in a positive way on the walls of our city.”
Maritza Martinez, the city’s public works director, estimates that the city cleans up about 12,000 square feet of graffiti of each month.
“The direct abatement costs (of the cleanup) without any other compounded costs average $1.75 per square foot,” said Martinez via email.
The mayor draws a distinction between tagging and graffiti that is considered art.
“I don’t like seeing graffiti that is gang-affiliated or tagging that defaces public and private property,” he says. “I appreciate public (displays) such as murals and other forms of public art that have positive messages and meaning. We have seen a positive response in our city with the first of many mural projects that is underway off of Shady Lane.”
The city is working with business owners on private property by providing paint as well as abating graffiti in public areas that have been reported on its Graffiti Hotline.
The primary abatement process is to paint over the vandalized areas. People who are caught vandalizing private or public property will have legal action taken against them by the city.
“We ask that all residents report existing graffiti and report this problem if you see someone committing this act,” says Garcia. “FYI-parents are now being held directly accountable financially if their (underage) son or daughter is caught. We are prosecuting both the minor and the parents.”
The city’s graffiti hot spots are located at Grapefruit Boulevard and Avenue 48, Calhoun Street and Avenue 48, Avenue 52 and Van Buren Street, and along retention basins.
Residents are encouraged to call the official Graffiti Hotline at 1-888-600-6250 and report public areas that have been vandalized.