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Spray paint IS secured, local store survey shows

by: David F. Ashton, Westmoreland True Value Hardware’s Ivan Stahlecker assists customer Chris Custer, who said, “I think it is a good idea. Maybe this will help slow down taggers.”

The Portland City Council amended city code to make graffiti vandalism an offense leading to jail-time; and then the Council passed a new Graffiti Materials and Sales code to try to put a halt to 'tagging' and gang marking.

'Spray-paint police' have been on patrol since the code went into effect on November 1st - and at least one major hardware retailer in Southeast Portland has been ticketed for noncompliance. They were busted, we're told, by Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard, author of the measure.

The ticket was not issued in Inner Southeast, however. Are hardware stores in our area complying - locking up their spray paints and other 'marking materials'? We checked three establishments just after the code went into effect.

No scofflaws in Westmoreland

At Westmoreland True Value Hardware, 6505 S.E. Milwaukie Avenue, we checked with John Horsman, whose family owns the store.

It wasn't practical for them to move the spray paint into a secured room, Horsman tells us. Instead, they locked it up.

'Magic Markers, glass etching and cutting tools, spray paint - anything considered to be a 'graffiti material' - must be locked up,' explained Horsman. 'We're in compliance.'

We walked over the shelving, now secured by heavy powder-coated steel bars. 'This is our 'spray paint prison'. The law requires employee assistance to access it. Then it has to be taken up to the front, and logged into a special form.'

Store clerk Ivan Stahlecker unlocked the display, slid back the bars, and helped his customer, local restaurateur Chris Custer, select several cans of spray paint.

'Actually, I think it is a good idea,' confided Custer. 'I'm opening a new restaurant down at S.E. Lambert and 13th Avenue, called 'Acena'. We've gotten tagged already. Maybe this will help slow down the taggers.'

Custer took his cans to the front counter, where Horsman noted down information from his driver's license, listed the products sold, and rang up the purchase.

'It hasn't yet affected business,' observed Horsman. 'But, we've never had a problem with spray paint theft. It might slow down impulse sales by someone who wants to pick up a can of paint.'

Even under these new rules, the transaction didn't take that long - about five minutes, total.

Out of sight in Woodstock

When customers come in to Woodstock Hardware at 4430 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard looking for spray paint on the shelves, they won't find it.

'Our way of complying with the new law is to take everything off the display floor,' said weekend manager Barry Odgers. 'We put it in the back room, an 'employees only' area, away from customers.'

It's too soon to tell whether or not the new law will slow down his paint sales, Odgers tells us, as he showed us his official purchase log.

'But, in my opinion, I don't think this is an important step ahead for the city. If someone wants to buy spray paint - without the paperwork - they'll just go across the county line. But, we are obeying the law.'

In compliance on 52nd

Many area residents know the owner of 52nd Avenue Hardware and Building Supply, Gordon Besaw. He and his sons have operated the business there since 1972.

Most of their facility is dedicated to lumber, plywood, and building supplies; their showroom is smaller than the other stores.

'We've had to put all of our spray paint up here, on a shelf you can only reach with a ladder,' Besaw told us. 'We haven't had a customer yet. Spray paint is not a big seller for us, anyway.'

However, this new law will be an inconvenience to his customers, Besaw emphatically believes. 'Anyone can go right down to Wichita Feed and Hardware, and buy it off the shelf. They're just a few blocks away.'

(We checked: Wichita Feed, just over the line in Clackamas County, is indeed just a mere 1.4 mile - four minute - drive from Besaw's store.)

Gordon's son, David Besaw, poked his head around the corner and said, 'This really doesn't make any sense.' He handed us the still-unused purchase log form and added, 'See how much information they want?'

'We'll do it to please City Hall,' the elder Besaw said with an air of resignation. 'But it just makes business a little more difficult.'