City helps, and seeks citizen help, with graffiti

by: Elizabeth Ussher Groff Most graffiti cleaned in Woodstock by volunteers on August 20th was “Tagger” graffiti – here cleaned by John Hupala and Chris Azorr, as part of community service for Tae Kwon Do, and in collaboration with the City’s Graffiti Abatement Program.

Scrubbing with soy-based solvent and covering with Metro recycled paint, Gary Wright and five of his Tae Kwon Do students cleaned up graffiti in the Woodstock neighborhood on Saturday morning, August 20th.

'Community service fits right in with what we are about,' commented Wright, who has taught Tae Kwon Do at the Woodstock Community Center for many years. The group helps out at the center and also does three community service jobs each year.

'It's not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning,' said John Hupala, longtime Tae Kwon Do student and stalwart community service volunteer. 'It's nice to be outside on such a beautiful day.'

In Portland, graffiti is classified into five categories: Tagger, Gang, Communicative, Hate, and Art. 'Tagger' graffiti makes up 85-90% of the graffiti seen in Portland, with most of it done by adults age 18 to 31 years of age. Taggers often travel in crews, and spray-paint their individual and/or crew moniker onto public and private property.

Citywide, 10-11% of graffiti is gang-related, although it is higher in some neighborhoods; it has not been seen to be a problem in Inner Southeast so far. The cleanup volunteers in Woodstock were finding, and cleaning off, mostly Tagger graffiti.

Graffiti is less of a problem in Woodstock than in many other neighborhoods, but several months ago longtime resident and former foot patrol member Anna Hirsch began organizing the cleanup as a 'summer spruce-up', with the help of the city's Graffiti Abatement Coordinator, Marcia Dennis.

The city's Graffiti Abatement Program helps coordinate, and supplies materials for, monthly Saturday Morning Collaborative Cleanups in any neighborhood that can get together a handful of volunteers and document graffiti locations in their area.

Wooden utility poles, trash can lids, newspaper boxes, dumpsters, bike racks, fire hydrants, the metal poles of street signs, and the backs of street signs are fair game for volunteers to clean. The reflective material on the front of street and stop signs requires special cleaning by the city only in order to preserve their reflectivity.

The volunteers, including Woodstock Neighborhood Association member Carolyn Thurman, met at Papaccino's Coffee Shop for brief graffiti cleanup instructions given by Graffiti Abatement Volunteer Coordinator Dennis LoGuidice, and Graffiti Abatement Coordinator Marcia Dennis. Both say they enjoy helping neighbors learn more about graffiti and how to clean it.

Earlier in the month, at the Woodstock Neighborhood Association meeting, Marcia Dennis had explained the law as concerns vandalizing with graffiti. 'Individuals put up their moniker, and if they are caught and arrested for the first time, they get probation. Often they have to pay restitution to the victim, and this can apply to private property as well as City or other public property. Three arrests and they become a repeat property offender, and can be given jail time.'

Dennis encourages neighbors to take photos of graffiti, and digitally e-mail them along with their locations or addresses, to the Graffiti Program at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If graffiti is on private property, a letter is mailed to the owner informing him/her of Portland City Code 14B.80 - which requires that graffiti be removed within ten days (it's the property owner's responsibility).

To report graffiti, call the Graffiti Hotline at 503/823-4824, submit a report online at and a=286366 - or use the free iPhone and Android apps (pdxreporter). For further assistance call Marcia Dennis at 503/823-5860.

For more information about interpreting and reporting graffiti go online to: .