Tempe Slashes Graffiti Sightings By 83 Percent

By Mariana Dale
Published: Monday, September 5, 2016 - 10:40am
Updated: Monday, September 5, 2016 - 12:13pm
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.43 MB)
(Photo by Mariana Dale - KJZZ)
Phil Chandler, who helps run the graffiti abatement program, said Tempe Town Lake and the light rail route are hot spots for vandalism.
(Photo by Mariana Dale - KJZZ)
A collection of stickers removed in Tempe inside one of the graffiti abatement trucks.

The City of Tempe slashed graffiti sightings by 83 percent in the last three years.

The finding comes from an annual survey of almost two dozen roadways in the city. Tempe logged 802 tags in December 2013 and 133 in May 2016.

Tempe centralized graffiti abatement in one department, public works, three years ago. Two workers, one full time and one temporary, drive city streets searching out and scouring tags, stickers and  illicit murals.

“We’re invisible,” said Phil Chandler, a graffiti abatement worker. “We get to it before the residents see it, before the majority of the people see it.”

The department incorporated GIS mapping in the last year. Every graffiti incident is catalogued, photographed and mapped. Managers can see, in real-time, where their workers are and how long each clean-up takes. Police can use the database to search for specific graffiti monikers.

“It makes it extremely helpful for us to be able to project where we need to spend a lot of time, a little time so we’re not wasting the residents time and money addressing graffiti in areas where it’s not there,” Chandler said.

Slide the bar to see an example of how graffiti is cleaned up

The city guarantees graffiti reported by residents is cleaned up within 48 hours. Most of the time, an estimated 85 percent,  workers cover graffiti they sought out themselves. The maps allow them to target hot spots.

“You almost have to think like the taggers,” Chandler said. Tempe Town Lake and the light rail route are among the areas targeted by vandals for their high visibility.

Tempe's work trucks are equipped with high pressure washers and buckets of paint in shades of beige.

Much of the paint the department uses come from the city’s waste diversion program. The city mixes donated paint to match common colors.

“We paint the entire wall and we feather it in and we color match it so if it were never there,” said Transportation Maintenance Manager Isaac Chavira. This prevents what Chavira calls a “secondary graffiti.”

You can report graffiti to Tempe 311 online or at 480-350-4311.

If you like this story, Donate Now!