BURLINGTON, N.C. -- The Burlington graffiti ordinance is now in effect, and the city is holding property owners accountable for cleaning up graffiti on their property.
"The quicker it gets cleaned up, the quicker it stops," said Burlington assistant police chief Chris Verdeck.
Sunday, June 1 was the beginning of a 90-day education period, in which police officers will contact owners of property with graffiti. If the property owners fail to remove the graffiti within that 90 days, the city will conduct an abatement through its Code Enforcement Division.
After the 90-day period, property owners will receive, from the city, a "notice of defacement" if graffiti exists on their property. They will have 10 days upon receiving the notice to clean up the mess (using the method and cost estimate of their choosing). If they fail to do so, the city will hire an approved contractor to clean up the graffiti.
City of Burlington public information officer Rachel Hawley addressed a concern from property owners about why they would be responsible for cleaning up a mess they did not create. Hawley said while she acknowledges property owners might be victim of a vandalism crime, they hold responsibility for items on their property. She and Verdeck reiterated property owners are eligible for restitution, if the vandalism crime is prosecuted in court.
Verdeck said a large portion of the graffiti in the city is gang-related. While gang-related graffiti is not isolated to Burlington, he said police and city administrators want to take a proactive approach to tackling the problem. He said property on which one gang has left graffiti tends to become a "message board" for other gangs, as they "cross off" the names of other gangs and write their own. He said escalation of graffiti can later lead to escalation of more violent crimes.
In addition to targeting vandalism crimes, the graffiti ordinance is intended to promote "economic vitality" within the city, according to Hawley. She affirmed graffiti-covered buildings can deter prospective business owners and home buyers from settling in Burlington.
The city recommends property owners utilize graffiti-deterring methods, like planting prickly bushes near walls or fences. Hawley also recommends people check with paint dealers to purchase sealants and anti-graffiti paint, which can allow for easier removal of graffiti.
Property owners who live in the city of Burlington and are victim of graffiti can call the Burlington Police Department at 336-229-3500 to report the crime. Anyone who notices graffiti on other structures, like public sidewalks and mailboxes, can report it by calling the Connecting Burlington Communities hotline at 336-222-5024.