New ordinance addresses graffiti issues

This year, the St. Augustine community experienced an increase in the defacing of some of the city’s most important historical structures. In response, the St. Augustine City Commission, recently passed an ordinance that greatly increases the penalties for those who deface historic property.

While the new ordinance addresses what happens to those who are caught, the city also makes a strong effort to prevent such acts of vandalism.

That ordinance, enacted at the September 26 commission meeting, allows for a combination of fines and community service hours as penalties and further provides for restitution to the property owner for the cost incurred during restoration. Additionally, if the violator is a minor, the parent or legal guardian is responsible for paying the fine and making restitution. Read the ordinance here.

For many years, possibly driven by the city’s desire to ensure the preservation and protection of its many historic buildings and monuments and of its tourist based economy, the City has employed a rapid response to acts of graffiti. When reported, a crew is immediately dispatched to remove the graffiti, an action widely recognized as one of the best deterrents.

More than simply removing the graffiti and preventing residents and visitors from seeing the graffiti, rapid response robs the perpetrator of bragging rights, recognition among peers and even self satisfaction. The work of the vandal is simply erased.

One of the more prominent programs working for graffiti prevention is Graffiti Hurts® - Care for Your Community a grassroots community education program developed in 1996 by Keep America Beautiful, Inc. The program’s Web site includes prevention tips as well as suggestions for building community support and how-to tips for removal and restoration. Visit the Graffiti Hurts® page here.

One municipality serving as a model of graffiti prevention is the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico whose web site includes a helpful frequently asked questions section related to graffiti. Visit Santa Fe’s informational page here.

If you see graffiti in the City of St. Augustine, you are asked to report it immediately. If the vandalism is on public property, city crews will address the situation immediately. If graffiti is on private property, then the city will work to notify the property owner of the reported damage.

To report an incident of graffiti, call the city’s General Services Department at 904.825.1010. If after normal business hours, leave a message and the problem will be addressed the following day. If on the weekends, call 904.825.1044 and the problem will be addressed as soon as possible.

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