Stepping up the fight to beat graffiti

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Construction workers eating an early lunch at Riverhead Diner and Grill Thursday morning have a view of the graffiti on the former West Marine building.

Local officials are considering a couple of options in the war against graffiti.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District is looking into several products that can remove graffiti from buildings if applied fairly soon after the markings are made, said BID board member Tony Coates.

And the Town Board said the American Red Cross’ Community Service Program will remove or cover graffiti free of charge, as long as the property owner signs an agreement releasing the Red Cross from liability,

The BID program would apply only to properties within the BID, a taxing district in downtown Riverhead. But the Red Cross program could be applied townwide, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

“They will supply the paint or use paint supplied to them,” Mr. Walter said at last Thursday’s Town Board work session.

Mr. Coates said in an interview that the BID was considering several products that can remove graffiti if it’s caught quickly, and hasn’t decided which one to go with.

Graffiti that’s been in place a long time and has settled probably can’t be removed with these products, and would have to be either painted over or blasted off.

“If the graffiti was done recently, we’ve found processes where you spray it and it will immediately remove it,” Mr. Coates said. “We’re still researching which is the best product.”

He said that “sometimes when people try to touch up graffiti, it will look just as bad as the graffiti. They pick a paint that doesn’t match and it looks just as blighted.”

Officials have noticed an increase in graffiti in town; some graffiti tags and some gang related.

“I don’t believe a lot of it is gang related,” Police Chief David Hegermiller told the Town Board last Thursday. He said it’s mostly people emulating gang graffiti and graffiti “taggers.”

“The biggest thing with gang-related graffiti is to remove it within 24 hours,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said.

The town code actually requires the owners of property defaced by graffiti to remove it within 14 days of being notified to remove it, or risk a fine of as much as $250.

Mr. Coates said that in cases where property owners have been notified but not responded, the BID can have graffiti removed at the owner’s expense.

Chief Hegermiller said there are already some security cameras downtown, and the BID hopes to mount one on a pole near the former Swezey’s parking lot.

“I look forward to there being no graffiti at all,” Mr. Walter said.

Councilman George Gabrielsen suggested the town designate a “graffiti wall” where graffiti artists can “show off their art,” although he acknowledged, “with gangs, it wouldn’t help.”

[email protected]