Updated March 20, 2010: Alas, my submission of hundreds of Hayward graffiti reports has far exceeded the city staff time allocated for graffiti cleanup. The original goal of two-day response has stretched to weeks and now to six months. (After six weeks without graffiti, several locations near my home were tagged again; that request now has a projected completion date in June.* Many of my recent graffiti reports in the “Access Hayward” system are now showing completion dates in September.)
The city’s stated goal of graffiti abatement within two days was based on the assumption that only a few residents would bother to report graffiti, and only in very limited locations. (I’m sure it was also based on a larger city budget, and not the current deficits.)
* Update March 25: Yesterday, the city thoroughly cleaned the graffiti in my neighborhood (for which the Access Hayward system had shown an “expected completion date” in June). Some new requests are now showing “expected completion dates” in October. City staff also appear to be intelligently prioritizing most requests (for example, profane graffiti near schools has consistently been removed within 24 hours after I report it).
Here’s the original article:
February 17, 2010: For the past six months, I’ve begun walking more — gradually increasing to 3 to 5 miles per day, three or four days each week. During my walks, I’ve noticed a lot of graffiti, and I grew increasingly angry with the City of Hayward for not doing something about it. But then I remembered the crisis in funding public services (at both the state and city levels), and I realized how few city staffers are available to deal with this huge problem — and then it occurred to me that city staff can’t respond to graffiti unless someone reports it.
And then, of course, I realized that as a citizen, I must also do my part. So in December, I snapped a few pictures of graffiti in my neighborhood, and submitted them to the city. I was amazed when city workers responded within 24 hours and painted over graffiti. When vandals re-tagged the same places, I reported it again, and city workers again painted over the graffiti — and in those locations, at least, the “taggers” have given up.
The City of Hayward makes this process pretty easy: they have a section of their web site called “Access Hayward” where we can submit “requests for city services,” including reporting graffiti, debris, abandoned cars, and much more. (Requests can be anonymous, or you can include your name or other contact information, to receive a response.) Your “request” can include an attachment (I’ve submitted images as well as PDF documents that include multiple images). The city contracts for this service with GovOutreach, a company that also serves a couple dozen other California cities.
This month, the GovOutreach service (used by Hayward) added an iPhone app, so now during my walk each day, I can immediately open a new “request,” snap a picture, enter the location (with a comment, if the picture isn’t self-explanatory), and then hit “submit.” The iPhone app uses the phone’s location-sensing (I have an “original” iPhone without GPS, so I usually have to “correct” or manually enter the address). I just noticed today that if I don’t know the street name, I can use the location-lookup and then view a map of the area, so I can see the street name — which I can then use to report the missing street sign!
I’d like to thank the city workers for their prompt, efficient response to graffiti. But their efforts (and mine) aren’t enough unless other Hayward residents promptly report graffiti. As I noted above, the “taggers” quickly realize if their graffiti is removed quickly, and the result is less graffiti.
Most graffiti is in public places (signs, sign posts, walls, and sidewalks), and the city responds quickly to most of those requests. Graffiti on private property is trickier. In my neighborhood, property owners and apartment maintenance crews usually paint over graffiti on their property quickly, but unfortunately there are some property owners who don’t respond. My understanding is that after receiving a report of graffiti on private property, the city sends a notice to the property owner, and if the owner doesn’t remove it quickly, the city sends staff to remove it and bills the owner.
FYI, the city also offers free paint to residents who want to immediately paint over graffiti on public property near their homes.