TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Across Pima County, officials say graffiti is a widespread issue costing them thousands. On average the county says it spends $4,500 on graffiti removal.
Last year alone, Pima County tells Tucson News Now that they spent $55,864 on the 393,526 square feet of graffiti they removed.
The County says this year they are on track to remove and spend a similar amount when it comes to graffiti removal.
The way that removal happens is via the TAAG (Taking Action Against Graffiti) program that has been in action since 2006. The program is funded by the Pima County Department of Transportation’s budget along with some additional funding from grants when available.
The county says that there was not necessarily a singular catalyst that led to starting the TAAG program over 10 years ago, rather that the need for a program for graffiti removal was always there.
"There is no rhyme or reason, it really is just a county wide problem,” Vanessa Schmidt, the coordinator of the Pima County TAAG program, said.
The county works to combat graffiti and tagging in two main ways. First, through the physical removal of graffiti once its made its way onto public property. Secondly, through reaching out to school aged kids.
Pima County says their goal is to reach kids and explain to them to the negative impacts graffiti has on their future and on their community. One way they work to do that is through their anti graffiti post contest. Kids ages 9-18 can design a poster and the winner gets a prize worth up to $100, and their artwork is used to create the new Pima County anti-graffiti poster, which is distributed to schools, libraries and community centers. The runners-up each get a prize worth up to $25. Both the winner and runners-up are be recognized in a community wide newsrelease.
In the past three years the TAAG program has handled more than 3,300 calls for graffiti cleanup and they’ve gotten rid of over 1.3 million square feet of graffiti.
When the TAAG program is notified of graffiti there’s a process they go through for removal. The first step is to see whether or not the graffiti is on public or private land. If it’s on private land, then the TAAG program will work with the land owner and if it’s on public land, the TAAG program then has to see if the land is incorporated or unincorporated. If the land is unincorporated land in Pima County then the graffiti can be removed through the TAAG programs efforts but if the land is incorporated then the county says that the City of Tucson has to take care of graffiti abatement.
Once the TAAG program has gone through those steps in identifying where the graffiti is, and they find that it falls on unincorporated Pima County land, they issue a service request to remove the graffiti.
"If it's public property within Pima County, unincorporated Pima County, we issue a service request to our contractor and we immediately try to remove it within 48 to 72 hours," Schmidt explains.
So how can you report graffiti if you see it? There are three ways.
You can download the MyPimaCounty app on your smartphone and report it there, you can call (520) 792-TAAG (8224), or you can fill out the online form here.