The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Tribal Council recently approved the Graffiti Abatement Program. Part of the Public Works Department, the program is focused on graffiti removal from Community-owned assets (structures, etc.) and from the private property of Community members living in Salt River and Lehi. The service is provided free of charge.
Gregg Bacome, Public Works roads maintenance supervisor, explained the process for a homeowner whose property is tagged with graffiti. “Once the residence gets tagged, they should call the [Salt River Police Department] first. They will come out and generate a report, take pictures and collect evidence if there is any, like spray [paint] cans. Then the police will send a work order to the Public Works Department, which will give the job to the Graffiti Abatement Program. Staff from the program will go to the property and paint over the vandalized areas.”
One goal of the program is a faster response. Usually the process of reporting graffiti to the police, generating the work order and removing the graffiti at the location takes 72 hours. “We have been faster getting the work orders done, often within the next day,” Bacome said.
Ray Jimenez, the graffiti abatement technician, receives the work order and goes out to the location.
Graffiti Is a Crime
“The Salt River Police Department wants to be notified in reference to graffiti because it is a crime in the Community and there is a zero tolerance for it,” said Jimenez. “So the police actually treat the vandalized area as a crime scene and document it.”
Some of the graffiti is painted on homes owned by the Salt River Housing Division, for instance the homes in VA I or VA II. Different Community departments have been trying to do their part in helping out.
Homeowners are the biggest customers for the Graffiti Abatement Program. “My main focus is to get all the residential [graffiti removed] first in the Community,” said Jimenez. “If it’s on their home or walls, then I am there to abate it and get rid of it.”
When a home or wall gets vandalized, Jimenez says that they try their best to match the paint color, but homeowners just want the graffiti removed.
Jimenez explained that fighting the taggers has been an ongoing battle. He hopes sooner or later they will get tired of it, but in the meantime it is his responsibility to abate the graffiti. “I like my job, and this is what I want to do for my Community,” he said. Now that the program is in place, Jimenez is working full-time, 40 hours a week.
Recently one of the tribal vehicles was tagged, and the program was able to get rid of the graffiti by using different cleaning products that work on specific materials, such as concrete, metal and so on.
“Our program is still new and we are trying any kinds of remover that stores carry,” said Jimenez.
Graffiti Hot Spots
“The Salt River Ballfield off of Longmore Road is a major hot spot for some taggers; it’s currently an ongoing battle,” said Jimenez. The restrooms and building there are being vandalized every week. To help discourage would-be taggers, the program plans to install motion-detector cameras in hot spots around the Community. The goal is to discourage people, because taggers’ photographs will be taken and will ultimately be used to identify, detain and prosecute them.
Other popular areas for graffiti artists include the property on Camelback Road and Extension. “He has been over there about five times this week,” said Bacome about Jimenez.
Costs of Graffiti Removal
The costs of removing graffiti on the Community come down to labor, materials and equipment. The truck purchased by Council for the Graffiti Abatement Program carries a hot-water pressure washer, a paint color matcher, a paint mixer, material storage space, a paint sprayer, lights and safety equipment and an on-board laptop for database access.
“Our vehicle actually has the capability to mix paint colors like they do at Home Depot or Ace Hardware, but we are just [now in the process of] getting the right training on using it,” said Bacome.
“We should be ready by a couple of months on the actual machinery and on how to use it properly,” said Jimenez.
The chemicals and paints they use are environmentally friendly, and a lot of paint that they don’t use will be captured and reused.
Fighting graffiti takes a partnership between the Community, residents and other groups, such as churches or club volunteers. If anyone needs a service project for their group and would like to help out, contact the SRPMIC Public Works Department and ask for the Graffiti Removal Program.
To report graffiti at your residence, call the SRPD; to report it elsewhere on the Community, call (480) 850-9230. If you see graffiti in progress, dial 911.