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Graffiti tags on occupied buildings must go, commission says

Kayla Byler / Lantern photographer

The battle against graffiti is growing as  university area students and officials see it reflecting negatively on the university and its community.

The University Area Commission is working toward changing a law that would require the clean-up of graffiti from all occupied structures in Columbus.

Ian MacConnell, president of the UAC, said his group seeks to amend the law, which requires the removal of graffiti from only vacant structures. The UAC’s proposal to the Columbus City Council would require property owners to clean graffiti off their property and the city to provide the resources to do so.

Greater intolerance of graffiti was recently seen at the trial of tagger Seth King, known for spray-painting his signature, “seed.” On Feb. 15, King was sentenced to a year in jail and five years of probation. When he is released, King will be required to clean his graffiti displayed around the city, MacConnell said.

“While this person has pled guilty to just three charges of graffiti,” MacConnell said, “we know he has tagged hundreds of properties and public homes.”

MacConnell said it is a fundamental issue to the University District that should not be ignored and the law allows the presence of graffiti to grow.

“The reason it is allowed to proliferate is because property owners are not required by law to remove graffiti from their property,” MacConnell said. “And (graffiti) says to people in that community that people are getting away with crimes blatantly.”

A majority of those living in the University District do not own their residences, so the responsibility of removing graffiti is left to the owners and the businesses that maintain the buildings, MacConnell said.

“Across the entire district, only 13 percent of citizens own their home,” MacConnell said. “If you own your own home, you are more likely to care. Students have to live with it because property owners, who don’t care, don’t clean it up.”

Nick Demoss, a second-year in chemistry, said he had only seen graffiti like that on off-campus buildings in the inner city.

“I immediately thought of a rough neighborhood,” Demoss said. “After living around it for a while, you kind of get used to it and it just becomes another thing that’s there.”

Undergraduate Student Government President Micah Kamrass said the university area is a reflection of the student body and should be a nice representation of Ohio State students.

“Ohio State has been moving forward and really attracting the best students, and the community we live in should reflect that,” Kamrass said. “It’s (graffiti) something we shouldn’t have as part of our OSU community.”

Jason Thomas, a fourth-year in electrical and computer engineering, said although he doesn’t see much graffiti on university buildings, it can make buildings look worse.

Graffiti has sometimes been recognized to impact the safety of an area by marking property to be burglarized at a later date, MacConnell said.

“That’s why it is very important to report it to the police and to their property owners,” MacConnell said. “Subconsciously or consciously, people feel less safe because they are surrounded by what could be perceived as crime activity occurring there.”

Graffiti can be reported to the police department and an officer will be dispatched to file a criminal report, MacConnell said.

“That is pretty much where it ends,” MacConnell said. “If you report it, your property owner will hopefully then clean it off.”

Keep Columbus Beautiful is a campaign through the Department of Public Service that provides materials to help remove and clean graffiti. The UAC’s proposal would require property owners to remove all graffiti within 30 days and would make the resources to do so readily available to them.

“They are victims of these graffiti vandals,” MacConnell said. “So let’s require them to remove the graffiti, and let’s help them with the resources.”

Columbus Police Officer Scott Clinger said graffiti is citizens’ No. 1 complaint.

“Within the civic associations and block watches, graffiti runs at the top,” Clinger said.

He said this is because of how graffiti is perceived in terms of safety.

“Do you feel safe in a neighborhood with a lot of graffiti?” Clinger said. “No, you don’t.”

The university district is responding to the UAC’s actions with full support.

“People are finally organizing together to say enough is enough,” MacConnell said. “And they are working to have people held responsible.”

As graffiti is becoming increasingly prevalent, the issue of safety and community remains at the heart of the UAC’s goals, MacConnell said.

“It is important for us to provide a safe environment for young people and students in the neighborhood,” MacConnell said. “Because you’re the next generation of problem solvers, we need to provide a safe, clean place for you guys to succeed.” 

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