During the week of August 8, the Huhugam Ki Museum staff members arrived at work to find graffiti on the west end of their building. They spent the day, in the-100 degree weather, chipping away the desecration from the dirt walls. The next day, they arrived to find the same graffiti in the same area.
“We don’t understand why it’s going on, why you (Community members) would do this to a house like this,” said Huhugam Ki Museum Manager Gary Owens.
“This was a house built by Community members. It’s not like it’s a fabricated building, the materials are from here, so why are they (Community members) vandalizing this place?”
The museum staff called in Public Works painter Robert Goodwin to help with the clean-up.
“I was just going to scrape it off until they are ready to re-mud it,” said Goodwin as he looked at the damage outside the museum. “We were going for years without anyone messing with this building. I was always thinking, ‘I hope no one gets to this building, because we’re going to have a mess.’ It finally happened.”
Goodwin was also in the area to clean graffiti from the Community sign on the southwest corner of Longmore and Osborn roads.
“I repaint this sign at least twice a week, and [also clean graffiti from] the Salt River and Lehi Community buildings,” said Goodwin.
The museum contacted the Salt River Police Department (SRPD) and reported both incidents. They hope their building is not defaced again.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has a Graffiti Ordinance to “provide a program for abatement of graffiti from public and private property, to reduce blight and deterioration within the Community, to expedite removal of graffiti from structures on both public and private property, and to prevent the further spread of graffiti.”
Punishment for a first offense is imprisonment for a period of 3 to 10 days and a fine up to $500, or both, with costs. Imprisonment may be commuted to supervised community service. For second and subsequent offenses, any person convicted will be imprisoned for 20 days to one year, and pay a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000, or both, with costs. With a second offense, there is no commutation of sentence. (SRO-256-2000, 10-6-99).
Enforcing the Graffiti Ordinance
As the Huhugam Ki Museum experience indicates, graffiti is a problem within the Community. According to the Salt River Prosecutor’s Office, between January and April 2011 there were 13 juvenile graffiti cases, and the average age of the minor offender was 14. There were six adult graffiti cases, and the average age of the defendant was 21.
“Over the past several weeks, police officers have either observed graffiti crimes in progress or Community members called the Salt River Police Department Communications Center and dispatchers sent officers out to respond to graffiti crimes. [These calls] resulted in the apprehension and arrest of 12 persons involved in separate graffiti crimes, at the St. Francis Catholic Church Cemetery, Victory Acres I and II parks, signs at the intersection at Center and Indian School, [and] Lehi Community Center Park,” said SRPD Acting Chief of Police Karl Auerbach.
When you report vandalism or graffiti, “A police officer will make a police report to document the damages and then contact the Public Works Department for graffiti abatement (removal). When the suspect is apprehended, they may be charged with the following violations: malicious mischief, graffiti [and] possibly trespassing,” said Auerbach.
The SRPD has a number of programs to help fight vandalism and graffiti, such as:
• The 2005 “Own A Road” program, in which the SRPD focuses on keeping Alma School Road a “graffiti-free zone.”
• Enlisting the assistance of Police Explorers and other volunteers for graffiti paint-over crews.
• Working with Pioneer Ford to conduct graffiti paint-overs.
• Working with SRPMIC Public Works to create dirt mounds around standpipes to prevent graffiti.
• The SRPD CAT Squad, with detectives who follow up on all graffiti cases. The CAT Squad recently was responsible for the paint-over of all graffiti on several abandoned trailers.
• Cataloging and tracking all graffiti incidents, with pattern, trend and link analysis conducted by the SRPD Intelligence Unit to stay ahead of graffiti offenders.
Other Community programs are helping in the graffiti fight as well, such as the Environmental Warriors Graffiti Project which is under the Salt River Advisory Council for Children and Youth and the Young Eagles program in the Recreation Department. Both programs help paint over graffiti on walls, signs and abandoned homes.
The Salt River Housing Division held a Youth and Graffiti Workshop on August 15 for their housing residents.
“This event was held to educate families about the costs and consequences of vandalism, linking Community youth resources and helping to create a positive artistic environment for youth,” said Housing Services Community Outreach Specialist Valerie Lewis. “During the event, we had [staff from the] SRPD talk about [graffiti] ordinances and penalties. The Youth Council conducted an ice-breaker and art activity. We had [a raffle] for gym bags donated by the Youth Council.”
The Housing Division would like to thank the Boys and Girls Club, Youth Council and the SRPD for their help and participation in the event. Lewis also thanks SRPMIC Council Member Tom Largo and Vice-President Martin Harvier for speaking at the event, and Housing Board Members Little Fawn Loring and Cecilia Nash for showing their support by attending.
Are You Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution?
The solution to the Community’s graffiti problem is easy. To build a strong Community, Auerbach said, we need to report any crimes that are being committed, including graffiti. To report an incident of graffiti or vandalism within the Community, please call the SRPD at (480) 850-9230.
“Please do not take matters into your own hands,” Auerbach said. “With your assistance in reporting persons who vandalize property, we can put a stop to this crime.”
Community members may also contact the Public Works Department Graffiti Hotline at (480) 850-8810 for graffiti removal.
Sec. 21-3. Graffiti prohibited.
Graffiti is prohibited from all sidewalks, walls, buildings, fences, signs and other structures or surfaces shall be kept free from graffiti when the graffiti is visible from the street or other public or private properties.
Any person who knowingly places or causes to be placed, graffiti as described in subsection (a) of this section shall be guilty of an offense.
Any person who knowingly entices or induces others to engage in graffiti as described in subsection (a) shall be guilty of an offense.
Any person who hires, engages or uses a minor for any conduct preparatory to or in completion of any offense in this section shall be guilty of an offense.
First offense. Any person convicted of an offense defined in this section shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a period of not less than three (3) days or more than ten (10) days and to a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00) or both, with costs. Imprisonment may be commuted to supervised Community service.
Second and subsequent offenses. Any person convicted of a second or subsequent offense under this section shall be imprisoned for a period of not less than twenty (20) days nor more than one year and fined an amount of not less than five hundred dollars ($500.00) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) or both, with costs. There shall be no commutation of sentence. (Ord. No. SRO-256-2000, 10-6-99)
Sec. 21-4. Possession of graffiti implements prohibited.
No person shall knowingly possess any graffiti implement with the intent to use the implement for the purpose of committing a violation of this chapter.
Violation of this section is punishable by a term of twenty four (24) hours in jail for a first offense and restitution for labor and supplies needed to abate the graffiti for which charges were filed and not less than twenty (20) hours of Community service aimed at abating graffiti within the Community.
Conviction of a second and subsequent offense of illegal possession of graffiti implements shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment for not less than seventy-two (72) hours and shall be fined not less than three hundred dollars ($300.00) or more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) and not less than forty (40) hours nor more than eighty (80) hours of Community service aimed at abating graffiti within the Community. Additionally, restitution shall be ordered for labor and supplies used to abate the property. (Ord. No. SRO-256-2000, 10-6-99)
Sec. 21-8. Sentencing.
Mandatory sentencing. Unless otherwise stated in this section, any person convicted of an offense defined in this section shall not be eligible for suspension of sentence, probation, parole or any other release from custody until the sentence imposed by the court is served in its entirety. Mandatory sentencing shall apply to juveniles in accordance with chapter 11 of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Code of Ordinances.
Payment of fines and restitution. The court may demand restitution and/or fines to be paid from any minor or adult's trust account. (Ord. No. SRO-256-2000, 10-6-99)
Sec. 21-9. Civil sanctions.
Removal and exclusion from the Community. Whenever a non-member is involved in violating any section of this ordinance, proceedings for removal and exclusion of the non-member from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community may be initiated in accordance with chapter 7 of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Code of Ordinances.
Civil fines. A person found to be in violation of any section of this ordinance may be liable for civil fines pursuant to section 21-6 of this chapter. (Ord. No. SRO-256-2000, 10-6-99)