January 9th, 2007 5:33 pm | by Isaac Kaplan-woolner News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Painted into a Corner—Portland's Widespread Graffiti Pandemic


As reported earlier this week, the Woodlawn neighborhood in Northeast Portland was hit with a rash of gang graffiti during the Holidays.

In response to the story, City Graffiti Abatement Coordinator Marcia Dennis wants to make one thing clear: Northeast Dekum Street is not the only area to have been hit by spray-can and marker.

“It's been pretty widespread,” Dennis says.

In fact, she feels tagger activity, both gang and otherwise, is on the rise all over Portland. Recently she has been fielding reports from Southeast 6th and Ankeny, the Belmont/Hawthorne area and Powell Boulevard, just to name a few. “I can never leave my house without a camera [to document new graffiti],” Dennis says.

It can be hard for communities to stay ahead of the problem, and Dennis says city crews are working as fast as they can, weather permitting, to remove or paint over what she sees as a growing trend of property destruction.

“It can be pretty discouraging sometimes,” she says.

While the Woodlawn neighborhood may have been hit with more gang-specific tags than other areas, Dennis feels increased graffiti is bringing down the whole city. “It's not murder, it's the stupidest crime out there…but it's still having a huge negative effect,” she says.

Graffiti ranges from primitive scrawlings to intricate building-sized paintings, but Dennis sees no difference. “It's not art, it's vandalism,” she says. Regardless of how artistic graffiti may be, Dennis says there is no legal distinction.

“If it is the Mona Lisa put on the side of an owner's building [without permission], it is still graffiti and it is still illegal,” she says. Dennis points out that legitimate artists have legal avenues to paint community murals. She sees taggers not as artists, but as criminals addicted to the illicit thrill.

And, she stresses, we must all pitch in to rid ourselves of this nuisance. To report graffiti and get help with free removal assistance, contact Marcia Dennis at mdennis@ci.portland.or.us or call 503-823-5860.
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