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Iowa City police unveil program targeting graffiti

BY ALISON CRISSMAN | JUNE 21, 2013 5:00 AM

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Although a new summer initiative has arisen out of one local police force to clean up graffiti in the city, area officials and residents say the prevalence of the street art has not necessarily become a growing problem.

“There has not necessarily been an increase in graffiti, but we do see a consistent amount,” said Jorey Bailey, the crime-prevention officer for the Iowa City police.

The Graffiti Cleanup Project is designed to encourage collaboration among the police, the Mayor’s Youth Empowerment Program, Johnson County Juvenile Court Services, and Iowa City property owners to clean up graffiti in the city.

Aside from dedicating sweat equity to the new role, the project is free of cost to the city.

And although they say the artwork isn’t uncommon in the city limits, local officials won’t turn away from the opportunity to remove it.

“The sooner the graffiti are cleaned up, the less likely it is to come back,” he said.

The program invites Iowa City property owners who have tagged graffiti on their property to purchase paint and paint brushes before contacting the police. Officers and area youth from the youth program and the juvenile court then paint over the graffiti at no cost to the property owner.

Bailey said the idea came to him while looking for solutions to clean up graffiti in Iowa City.

“We’ve been looking for an opportunity to get graffiti out of neighborhoods, so I came up with the idea of collaborating with youth in the area,” he said.  “Some of them are involved in juvenile court, and some are looking for volunteer hours.  It seemed to be a natural fit.”

Under the Iowa City Code graffiti are considered to be a public nuisance, and graffiti that remain on a property for long periods of time can promote more graffiti in the area, a recent city news release said.

For Bailey, the program has a twofold positive approach.

In addition to cleaning up the area, it introduces a new partnership.

“This program has a great payoff for the department, because this gives police officers the opportunity to work alongside youth in the area to be seen more as a teammate rather than as an authority figure,” Bailey said.

Adam Bentley, the administrative assistant to the city manager, said the program is a part of the city’s broader strategic plan to achieve neighborhood-stabilization goals.

He said during the spring and summer periods in Iowa City, graffiti are often more prevalent, simply because of the nicer weather.

Bailey noted that no areas of Iowa City are immune to graffiti.

“Sometimes it’s a problem in neighborhoods, sometimes on buildings downtown, but it’s not necessarily more prevalent in one area than another,” he said.

“We think that by keeping some of these areas clean, we can reduce the nuisance caused by graffiti,” Bentley said.

While some see graffiti as a nuisance, University of Iowa senior Libby Collins said she believes the graffiti in Iowa City demonstrate a level of creativity.

“Iowa City graffiti seem to be more artistic rather than offensive,” she said.

Anne McAnelly, a resident of Iowa City for 10 years, said she thought that the program would benefit the city.

“It seems like a great way to get kids involved and take more ownership of where they live,” she said.


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